[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: New experimental methods must be developed to study interaction networks in systems biology. To reduce biological noise, individual subjects, such as single cells, should be analyzed using high throughput approaches. The measurement of several correlative physical properties would further improve data consistency. Accordingly, a considerable quantity of data must be acquired, correlated, catalogued and stored in a database for subsequent analysis.
We have developed openBEB (open Biological Experiment Browser), a software framework for data acquisition, coordination, annotation and synchronization with database solutions such as openBIS. OpenBEB consists of two main parts: A core program and a plug-in manager. Whereas the data-type independent core of openBEB maintains a local container of raw-data and metadata and provides annotation and data management tools, all data-specific tasks are performed by plug-ins. The open architecture of openBEB enables the fast integration of plug-ins, e.g., for data acquisition or visualization. A macro-interpreter allows the automation and coordination of the different modules. An update and deployment mechanism keeps the core program, the plug-ins and the metadata definition files in sync with a central repository.
The versatility, the simple deployment and update mechanism, and the scalability in terms of module integration offered by openBEB make this software interesting for a large scientific community. OpenBEB targets three types of researcher, ideally working closely together: (i) Engineers and scientists developing new methods and instruments, e.g., for systems-biology, (ii) scientists performing biological experiments, (iii) theoreticians and mathematicians analyzing data. The design of openBEB enables the rapid development of plug-ins, which will inherently benefit from the "house keeping" abilities of the core program. We report the use of openBEB to combine live cell microscopy, microfluidic control and visual proteomics. In this example, measurements from diverse, complementary techniques are combined and correlated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The type III secretion system machinery, also known as the injectisome, delivers bacterial effector proteins into eukaryotic cells during infection. The outer membrane YscC secretin is a major part of Yersinia enterocolitica's injectisome and is among the first components to assemble, solely assisted by its pilotin, YscW. We have determined the three-dimensional structures of the native complex and its protease-resistant core to 12 Å resolution by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and show that YscC forms a dodecameric complex. Cryo-EM of YscC reconstituted into proteoliposomes defines the secretin's membrane-spanning region. Native YscC consists of an outer membrane ring connected via a thin cylindrical wall to a conical, periplasmic region that exposes N-terminal petals connected by flexible linkers. These petals harbor the binding site of YscD, a component of the inner membrane ring. A change in their orientation adapts the length of the YscC secretin and facilitates its interaction with YscD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Maurice E. Müller Institute, embedded in the infrastructure of the Biozentrum, University of Basel, was founded in 1985 and financed by the Maurice E. Müller Foundation of Switzerland. For 26 years its two founders, Ueli Aebi and Andreas Engel, pursued the vision of integrated structural biology. This paper reviews selected publications issuing from the Maurice E. Müller Institute for Structural Biology and marks the end of this era.
Journal of Structural Biology 11/2011; 177(1):3-13. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nanoparticles show great promise as potent vaccine candidates since they are readily taken up by the antigen presenting cells of the immune system. The particle size and the density of the B cell epitopes on the surface of the particles greatly influences the strength of the humoral immune response. We have developed a novel type of nanoparticle composed of peptide building blocks (Raman et al., 2006) and have used such particles to design vaccines against malaria and SARS (Kaba et al., 2009; Pimentel et al., 2009). Here we investigate the biophysical properties and the refolding conditions of a prototype of these self-assembling polypeptide nanoparticles (SAPNs). SAPNs are formed from a peptide containing a pentameric and a trimeric coiled-coil domain. At near physiological conditions the peptide self-assembles into about 27 nm, roughly spherical SAPNs. The average size of the SAPNs increases with the salt concentration. The optimal pH for their formation is between 7.5 and 8.5, while aggregation occurs at lower and higher values. A glycerol concentration of about 5% v/v is required for the formation of SAPNs with regular spherical shapes. These studies will help to optimize the immunological properties of SAPNs.
Journal of Structural Biology 11/2011; 177(1):168-76. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A versatile methodology for electron microscopy (EM) grid preparation enabling total content sample analysis is presented. A microfluidic-dialysis conditioning module to desalt or mix samples with negative stain solution is used, combined with a robotic writing table to micro-pattern the EM grids. The method allows heterogeneous samples of minute volumes to be processed at physiological pH for structure and mass analysis, and allows the preparation characteristics to be finely tuned.
Journal of Structural Biology 11/2011; 177(1):128-34. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The process of vision is initiated when the G protein-coupled receptor, rhodopsin (Rho), absorbs a photon and transitions to its activated Rho(∗) form. Rho(∗) binds the heterotrimeric G protein, transducin (G(t)) inducing GDP to GTP exchange and G(t) dissociation. Using nucleotide depletion and affinity chromatography, we trapped and purified the resulting nucleotide-free Rho(∗)·G(t) complex. Quantitative SDS-PAGE suggested a 2:1 molar ratio of Rho(∗) to G(t) in the complex and its mass determined by scanning transmission electron microscopy was 221±12kDa. A 21.6Å structure was calculated from projections of negatively stained Rho(∗)·G(t) complexes. The molecular envelope thus determined accommodated two Rho molecules together with one G(t) heterotrimer, corroborating the heteropentameric structure of the Rho(∗)·G(t) complex.
Journal of Structural Biology 09/2011; 176(3):387-94. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chlorosomes, the antenna complexes of green bacteria, are unique antenna systems in which pigments are organized in aggregates. Studies on isolated chlorosomes from Chlorobaculum tepidum based on SDS-PAGE, immunoblotting and molecular biology have revealed that they contain ten chlorosomal proteins, but no comprehensive information is available about the protein composition of the entire organelle. To extend these studies, chlorosomes were isolated from C. tepidum using three related and one independent isolation protocol and characterized by absorption spectroscopy, tricine SDS-PAGE, dynamic light scattering (DLS) and electron microscopy. Tricine SDS-PAGE showed the presence of more than 20 proteins with molecular weights ranging between 6 and 70 kDa. The chlorosomes varied in size. Their hydrodynamic radius (Rh) ranged from 51 to 75 nm and electron microscopy indicated that they were on average 140 nm wide and 170 nm long. Furthermore, the mass of 184 whole chlorosome organelles determined by scanning transmission electron microscopy ranged from 27 to 237 MDa being on average 88 (±28) MDa. In contrast their mass-per-area was independent of their size, indicating that there is a strict limit to chlorosome thickness. The average protein composition of the C. tepidum chlorosome organelles was obtained by MS/MS-driven proteomics and for the first time a detailed protein catalogue of the isolated chlorosomal proteome is presented. Based on the proteomics results for chlorosomes isolated by different protocols, four proteins that are involved in the electron or ion transport are proposed to be tightly associated with or incorporated into C. tepidum chlorosomes as well as the ten Csm proteins known to date.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The self-assembly of specific proteins to form insoluble amyloid fibrils is a characteristic feature of a number of age-related and debilitating diseases. Lipid-free human apolipoprotein C-II (apoC-II) forms characteristic amyloid fibrils and is one of several apolipoproteins that accumulate in amyloid deposits located within atherosclerotic plaques. X-ray diffraction analysis of aligned apoC-II fibrils indicated a simple cross-β-structure composed of two parallel β-sheets. Examination of apoC-II fibrils using transmission electron microscopy, scanning transmission electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy indicated that the fibrils are flat ribbons composed of one apoC-II molecule per 4.7-Å rise of the cross-β-structure. Cross-linking results using single-cysteine substitution mutants are consistent with a parallel in-register structural model for apoC-II fibrils. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer analysis of apoC-II fibrils labeled with specific fluorophores provided distance constraints for selected donor-acceptor pairs located within the fibrils. These findings were used to develop a simple 'letter-G-like' β-strand-loop-β-strand model for apoC-II fibrils. Fully solvated all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations showed that the model contained a stable cross-β-core with a flexible connecting loop devoid of persistent secondary structure. The time course of the MD simulations revealed that charge clusters in the fibril rearrange to minimize the effects of same-charge interactions inherent in parallel in-register models. Our structural model for apoC-II fibrils suggests that apoC-II monomers fold and self-assemble to form a stable cross-β-scaffold containing relatively unstructured connecting loops.
Journal of Molecular Biology 02/2011; 405(5):1246-66. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Amyloid fibrils are filamentous protein aggregates implicated in several common diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and type II diabetes. Similar structures are also the molecular principle of the infectious spongiform encephalopathies such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in sheep, and of the so-called yeast prions, inherited non-chromosomal elements found in yeast and fungi. Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) is often used to delineate the assembly mechanism and structural properties of amyloid aggregates. In this review we consider specifically contributions and limitations of STEM for the investigation of amyloid assembly pathways, fibril polymorphisms and structural models of amyloid fibrils. This type of microscopy provides the only method to directly measure the mass-per-length (MPL) of individual filaments. Made on both in vitro assembled and ex vivo samples, STEM mass measurements have illuminated the hierarchical relationships between amyloid fibrils and revealed that polymorphic fibrils and various globular oligomers can assemble simultaneously from a single polypeptide. The MPLs also impose strong constraints on possible packing schemes, assisting in molecular model building when combined with high-resolution methods like solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR).
Journal of Structural Biology 01/2011; 173(1):1-13. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Amyloid fibrils are filamentous protein aggregates implicated in several common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and type II diabetes. Similar structures are also the molecular principle of the infectious spongiform encephalopathies such as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in sheep, and of the so-called yeast prions, inherited non-chromosomal elements found in yeast and fungi. Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) is often used to delineate the assembly mechanism and structural properties of amyloid aggregates. In this review we consider specifically contributions and limitations of STEM for the investigation of amyloid assembly pathways, fibril polymorphisms and structural models of amyloid fibrils. This type of microscopy provides the only method to directly measure the mass-per-length (MPL) of individual filaments. Made on both in vitro assembled and ex vivo samples, STEM mass measurements have illuminated the hierarchical relationships between amyloid fibrils and revealed that polymorphic fibrils and various globular oligomers can assemble simultaneously from a single polypeptide. The MPLs also impose strong constraints on possible packing schemes, assisting in molecular model building when combined with high-resolution methods like solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR).
Journal of Structural Biology. 01/2011; 173(1):1-13.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The development of biomatrices for technological and biomedical applications employs self-assembled scaffolds built from short peptidic motifs. However, biopolymers composed of protein domains would offer more varied molecular frames to introduce finer and more complex functionalities in bioreactive scaffolds using bottom-up approaches. Yet, the rules governing the three-dimensional organization of protein architectures in nature are complex and poorly understood. As a result, the synthetic fabrication of ordered protein association into polymers poses major challenges to bioengineering. We have now fabricated a self-assembling protein nanofiber with predictable morphologies and amenable to bottom-up customization, where features supporting function and assembly are spatially segregated. The design was inspired by the cross-linking of titin filaments by telethonin in the muscle sarcomere. The resulting fiber is a two-protein system that has nanopatterned peptide display capabilities as shown by the recruitment of functionalized gold nanoparticles at regular intervals of ∼ 5 nm, yielding a semiregular linear array over micrometers. This polymer promises the uncomplicated display of biologically active motifs to selectively bind and organize matter in the fine nanoscale. Further, its conceptual design has high potential for controlled plurifunctionalization.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM) have provided a wealth of useful information on a wide variety of biological structures. These instruments have in common that they raster-scan a probe over a sample and are able to address single molecules. In the STEM the probe is a focused electron beam that is deflected by the scan-coils. Detectors collecting the scattered electrons provide quantitative information for each sub-nanometer sized sample volume irradiated. These electron scattering data can be reconstituted to images of single macromolecules or can be integrated to provide the mass of the macromolecules. Samples need to be dehydrated for such quantitative STEM imaging. In contrast, the AFM raster-scans a sharp tip over a sample surface submerged in a buffer solution to acquire information on the sample's surface topography at sub-nanometer resolution. Direct observation of function-related structural changes induced by variation of temperature, pH, ionic strength, and applied force provides insight into the structure-function relationship of macromolecules. Further, the AFM allows single molecules to be addressed and quantitatively unfolded using the tip as nano-tweezers. The performance of these two scanning probe approaches is illustrated by several examples including the chaperonin GroEL, bacterial surface layers, protein crystals, and bacterial appendices.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the pili of Gram-positive bacteria are putative virulence factors, little is known about their structure. Here we describe the molecular architecture of pilus-1 of Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. One major (RrgB) and two minor components (RrgA and RrgC) assemble into the pilus. Results from TEM and scanning transmission EM show that the native pili are approximately 6 nm wide, flexible filaments that can be over 1 microm long. They are formed by a single string of RrgB monomers and have a polarity defined by nose-like protrusions. These protrusions correlate to the shape of monomeric RrgB-His, which like RrgA-His and RrgC-His has an elongated, multi-domain structure. RrgA and RrgC are only present at the opposite ends of the pilus shaft, compatible with their putative roles as adhesin and anchor to the cell wall surface, respectively. Our structural analyses provide the first direct experimental evidence that the native S. pneumoniae pilus shaft is composed exclusively of covalently linked monomeric RrgB subunits oriented head-to-tail.
The EMBO Journal 11/2009; 28(24):3921-30. · 9.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Attempts to explore the structure and function of Kch, a putative potassium channel of Escherichia coli have yielded varying results; potassium-associated functions have been found in vivo but not in vitro. Here the kch gene is shown to produce two proteins, full-length Kch and the large C-terminal cytosolic domain (the RCK domain). Further, these two proteins are associated at the initial stages of purification. Previous structural studies of full-length Kch claim that the isolated protein forms large aggregates that are not suitable for analysis. The results presented here show that the purified protein sample, although heterogeneous, has one major population with a mass of about 400kDa, implying the presence of two Kch tetramers in a complex form. A three dimensional reconstruction at 25A based on electron microscopy data from negatively stained particles, revealed a 210A long and 95A wide complex in which the two tetrameric Kch units are linked by their RCK domains, giving rise to a large central ring of density. The formation of this dimer of tetramers on expression or during purification, may explain why attempts to reconstitute Kch into liposomes for activity measurements have failed.
Journal of Structural Biology 08/2009; 168(2):288-93. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The abundant blue hemolymph protein of the last instar larvae of the moth Cerura vinula was purified and characterized by protein-analytical, spectroscopic and electron microscopic methods. Amino acid sequences obtained from a large number of cleavage peptides revealed a high level of similarity of the blue protein with arylphorins from a number of other moth species. In particular, there is a high abundance of the aromatic amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine amounting to about 19% of total amino acids and a low content of methionine (0.8%) in the Cerura protein. The mass of the native protein complex was studied by size-exclusion chromatography, analytical ultracentrifugation, dynamic light scattering and scanning transmission electron microscopy and found to be around 500 kDa. Denaturating gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry suggested the presence of two proteins with masses of about 85 kDa. The native Cerura protein is, therefore, a hexameric complex of two different subunits of similar size, as is known for arylphorins. The protein was further characterized as a weakly acidic (pI ∼ 5.5) glycoprotein containing mannose, glucose and N-acetylglucosamine in an approximate ratio of 10:1:1. The structure proposed for the most abundant oligosaccharide of the Cerura arylphorin was the same as already identified in arylphorins from other moths. The intense blue colour of the Cerura protein is due to non-covalent association with a bilin of novel structure at an estimated protein subunit-to-ligand ratio of 3:1. Transmission electron microscopy of the biliprotein showed single particles of cylindrical shape measuring about 13 nm in diameter and 9 nm in height. A small fraction of particles of the same diameter but half the height was likely a trimeric arylphorin dissociation intermediate. Preliminary three-dimensional reconstruction based on averaged transmission electron microscopy projections of the individual particles revealed a double-trimeric structure for the hexameric Cerura biliprotein complex, suggesting it to be a dimer of trimers.
Journal of Molecular Biology 01/2009; · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Electron microscopy has been used to measure the mass of biological nanoparticles since the early 60s, and is the only way to obtain the mass of large structures or parameters such as the mass-per-length of filaments. The ability of this method to sort heterogeneous samples both in terms of mass and shape promises to make it a key tool for proteomics down to the single cell level. A new multiplatform software package, MASDET, that can be run under MATLAB or as a standalone program is described. Based on a user-friendly graphical interface MASDET streamlines mass evaluation and greatly increases the speed of required optimisation procedures. Importantly, the immediate application of Monte-Carlo simulations to describe multiple scattering is possible, allowing the mass analysis of thicker samples and the generation of mass thickness maps.
Journal of Structural Biology 12/2008; 165(2):78-87. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proteins belonging to the Omp85 family are involved in the assembly of beta-barrel outer membrane proteins or in the translocation of proteins across the outer membrane in bacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. The cell envelope of the thermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus HB27 is multilayered, including an outer membrane that is not well characterized. Neither the precise lipid composition nor much about integral membrane proteins is known. The genome of HB27 encodes one Omp85-like protein, Omp85(Tt), representing an ancestral type of this family. We overexpressed Omp85(Tt) in T. thermophilus and purified it from the native outer membranes. In the presence of detergent, purified Omp85(Tt) existed mainly as a monomer, composed of two stable protease-resistant modules. Circular dichroism spectroscopy indicated predominantly beta-sheet secondary structure. Electron microscopy of negatively stained lipid-embedded Omp85(Tt) revealed ring-like structures with a central cavity of approximately 1.5 nm in diameter. Single-channel conductance recordings indicated that Omp85(Tt) forms ion channels with two different conducting states, characterized by conductances of approximately 0.4 nS and approximately 0.65 nS, respectively.
Journal of bacteriology 08/2008; 190(13):4568-75. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Our review concentrates on the progress made in high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in the past decade. This includes significant improvements in sample preparation by quick-freezing aimed at preserving the specimen in a close-to-native state in the high vacuum of the microscope. Following advances in cold stage and TEM vacuum technology systems, the observation of native, frozen hydrated specimens has become a widely used approach. It fostered the development of computer guided, fully automated low-dose data acquisition systems allowing matched pairs of images and diffraction patterns to be recorded for electron crystallography, and the collection of entire tilt-series for electron tomography. To achieve optimal information transfer to atomic resolution, field emission electron guns combined with acceleration voltages of 200-300 kV are now routinely used. The outcome of these advances is illustrated by the atomic structure of mammalian aquaporin-O and by the pore-forming bacterial cytotoxin ClyA resolved to 12 A. Further, the Yersinia injectisome needle, a bacterial pseudopilus and the binding of phalloidin to muscle actin filaments were chosen to document the advantage of the high contrast offered by dedicated scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and/or the STEM's ability to measure the mass of protein complexes and directly link this to their shape. Continued progress emerging from leading research laboratories and microscope manufacturers will eventually enable us to determine the proteome of a single cell by electron tomography, and to more routinely solve the atomic structure of membrane proteins by electron crystallography.
Journal of Structural Biology 07/2008; 163(3):235-45. · 3.36 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Heterotrimeric AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is crucial for energy homeostasis of eukaryotic cells and organisms. Here we report on (i) bacterial expression of untagged mammalian AMPK isoform combinations, all containing gamma(1), (ii) an automated four-dimensional purification protocol, and (iii) biophysical characterization of AMPK heterotrimers by small angle x-ray scattering in solution (SAXS), transmission and scanning transmission electron microscopy (TEM, STEM), and mass spectrometry (MS). AMPK in solution at low concentrations (~1 mg/ml) largely consisted of individual heterotrimers in TEM analysis, revealed a precise 1:1:1 stoichiometry of the three subunits in MS, and behaved as an ideal solution in SAXS. At higher AMPK concentrations, SAXS revealed concentration-dependent, reversible dimerization of AMPK heterotrimers and formation of higher oligomers, also confirmed by STEM mass measurements. Single particle reconstruction and averaging by SAXS and TEM, respectively, revealed similar elongated, flat AMPK particles with protrusions and an indentation. In the lower AMPK concentration range, addition of AMP resulted in a significant decrease of the radius of gyration by approximately 5% in SAXS, which indicates a conformational switch in AMPK induced by ligand binding. We propose a structural model involving a ligand-induced relative movement of the kinase domain resulting in a more compact heterotrimer and a conformational change in the kinase domain that protects AMPK from dephosphorylation of Thr(172), thus positively affecting AMPK activity.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 07/2008; 283(26):18331-43. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The immunoglobulin D (IgD)-binding protein MID/Hag of the human respiratory pathogen Moraxella catarrhalis is an outer membrane protein of approximately 200kDa belonging to the autotransporter family. MID also functions as an adhesin and hemagglutinin. In the present paper, the ultrastructure of MID was mapped. Using a series of Escherichia coli transformants, the last 210 aa of the C-terminal region were shown to translocate protein MID through the outer membrane suggesting that MID has a beta-barrel structure comprising of 10 transmembrane beta-sheets. Electron microscopy mapping with gold-labelled specific antibodies, and partial unravelling using guanidine hydrochloride showed that the rest of the MID protein forms an approximately 120nm long, fibrillar structure in which the individual monomers fold back on themselves to expose a globular distal domain at their tips comprising both the IgD-binding (MID962-1200) and adhesive (MID764-913) regions. This positions their N-termini close to the C-terminal membrane spanning domains. Mass measurements by scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) verified that the MID molecule is an oligomer.
Microbes and Infection 05/2008; 10(4):374-81. · 2.92 Impact Factor