[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The misfolding of intrinsically disordered proteins such as α-synuclein, tau and the Aβ peptide has been associated with many highly debilitating neurodegenerative syndromes including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Therapeutic targeting of the monomeric state of such intrinsically disordered proteins by small molecules has, however, been a major challenge because of their heterogeneous conformational properties. We show here that a combination of computational and experimental techniques has led to the identification of a drug-like phenyl-sulfonamide compound (ELN484228), that targets α-synuclein, a key protein in Parkinson's disease. We found that this compound has substantial biological activity in cellular models of α-synuclein-mediated dysfunction, including rescue of α-synuclein-induced disruption of vesicle trafficking and dopaminergic neuronal loss and neurite retraction most likely by reducing the amount of α-synuclein targeted to sites of vesicle mobilization such as the synapse in neurons or the site of bead engulfment in microglial cells. These results indicate that targeting α-synuclein by small molecules represents a promising approach to the development of therapeutic treatments of Parkinson's disease and related conditions.
PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(2):e87133. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nanobodies are fragments of single domain camelid antibodies that are emerging as versatile tools in biotechnology. We describe here the interactions of a specific nanobody, NbSyn87, with the monomeric and fibrillar forms of α-synuclein (αSyn), a 140-residue protein whose aggregation is associated with Parkinson's disease. We have characterized these interactions using a range of biophysical techniques, including nuclear magnetic resonance and circular dichroism spectroscopy, isothermal titration calorimetry and quartz crystal microbalance measurements. In addition, we have compared the results with those that we have reported previously for a different nanobody, NbSyn2, also raised against monomeric αSyn. This comparison indicates that NbSyn87 and NbSyn2 bind with nanomolar affinity to distinctive epitopes within the C-terminal domain of soluble αSyn, comprising approximately amino acids 118-131 and 137-140 respectively. The calorimetric and quartz crystal microbalance data indicate that the epitopes of both nanobodies are still accessible when αSyn converts into its fibrillar structure. The apparent affinities and other thermodynamic parameters defining the binding between the nanobody and the fibrils, however, vary significantly with the length of time that the process of fibril formation has been allowed to progress and with the conditions under which formation occurs, indicating that the environment of the C-terminal domain of αSyn changes as fibril assembly takes place. These results demonstrate that nanobodies are able to target forms of potentially pathogenic aggregates that differ from each other in relatively minor details of their structure, such as those associated with fibril maturation.
Journal of Molecular Biology 04/2013; · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oligomerization in the heat shock protein (Hsp) 70 family has been extensively documented both in vitro and in vivo, although the mechanism, the identity of the specific protein regions involved and the physiological relevance of this process are still unclear. We have studied the oligomeric properties of a series of human Hsp70 variants by means of nanoelectrospray ionization mass spectrometry, optical spectroscopy and quantitative size exclusion chromatography. Our results show that Hsp70 oligomerization takes place through a specific interaction between the interdomain linker of one molecule and the substrate-binding domain of a different molecule, generating dimers and higher-order oligomers. We have found that substrate binding shifts the oligomerization equilibrium towards the accumulation of functional monomeric protein, probably by sequestering the helical lid sub-domain needed to stabilize the chaperone: substrate complex. Taken together, these findings suggest a possible role of chaperone oligomerization as a mechanism for regulating the availability of the active monomeric form of the chaperone and for the control of substrate binding and release.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(6):e67961. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here, we use single-molecule techniques to study the aggregation of α-synuclein, the protein whose misfolding and deposition is associated with Parkinson's disease. We identify a conformational change from the initially formed oligomers to stable, more compact proteinase-K-resistant oligomers as the key step that leads ultimately to fibril formation. The oligomers formed as a result of the structural conversion generate much higher levels of oxidative stress in rat primary neurons than do the oligomers formed initially, showing that they are more damaging to cells. The structural conversion is remarkably slow, indicating a high kinetic barrier for the conversion and suggesting that there is a significant period of time for the cellular protective machinery to operate and potentially for therapeutic intervention, prior to the onset of cellular damage. In the absence of added soluble protein, the assembly process is reversed and fibrils disaggregate to form stable oligomers, hence acting as a source of cytotoxic species.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background / Purpose:
Urease is an essential enzyme for many pathogens and soil microorganisms. Its activity relies on the presence of nickel in the active site, whose incorporation requires the interplay of four accessory proteins, named UreD, UreE, UreF and UreG (1). In particular, UreG is a GTPase enzyme that has been classified as intrinsically disordered, according to data obtained from light scattering, circular dichroism, NMR, fluorescence spectroscopy, isothermal titration calorimetry, differential scanning calorimetry and computational methods (2-5). Here, we explore the conformational landscape of this protein at different temperatures and in the presence of chemical denaturing agents.
The different experimental approaches used in this study (CD, NMR, fluorescence) agree that this enzyme exists in solution as an ensemble of uncooperatively inter-converting conformations, whose degrees of secondary structure depend on temperature and denaturant concentration (6). In the presence of denaturant, the protein undergoes a cold denaturation process typical of other intrinsically disordered proteins.
Biochemical Society 2012 - Intrinsically Disordered Proteins meeting; 04/2012
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the past, enzymatic activity has always been expected to be dependent on overall protein rigidity, necessary for substrate recognition and optimal orientation. However, increasing evidence is now accumulating, revealing that some proteins characterized by intrinsic disorder are actually able to perform catalysis. Among them, the only known natural intrinsically disordered enzyme is UreG, a GTPase that, in plants and bacteria, is involved in the protein interaction network leading to Ni(2+) ions delivery into the active site of urease. In this paper, we report a detailed analysis of the unfolding behaviour of UreG from Bacillus pasteurii (BpUreG), following its thermal and chemical denaturation with a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy, calorimetry, CD and NMR. The results demonstrate that BpUreG exists as an ensemble of inter-converting conformations, whose degrees of secondary structure depend on temperature and denaturant concentration. In particular, three major types of conformational ensembles with different degrees of residual structure were identified, with major structural characteristics resembling those of a molten globule (low temperature, absence of denaturant), pre-molten globule (high temperature, absence or presence of denaturant) and random coil (low temperature, presence of denaturant). Transitions among these ensembles of conformational states occur non-cooperatively although reversibly, with a gradual loss or acquisition of residual structure depending on the conditions. A possible role of disorder in the biological function of UreG is envisaged and discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The propensity of protein molecules to self-assemble into highly ordered, fibrillar aggregates lies at the heart of understanding many disorders ranging from Alzheimer's disease to systemic lysozyme amyloidosis. In this paper we use highly accurate kinetic measurements of amyloid fibril growth in combination with spectroscopic tools to quantify the effect of modifications in solution conditions and in the amino acid sequence of human lysozyme on its propensity to form amyloid fibrils under acidic conditions. We elucidate and quantify the correlation between the rate of amyloid growth and the population of nonnative states, and we show that changes in amyloidogenicity are almost entirely due to alterations in the stability of the native state, while other regions of the global free-energy surface remain largely unmodified. These results provide insight into the complex dynamics of a macromolecule on a multidimensional energy landscape and point the way for a better understanding of amyloid diseases.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 05/2011; 133(20):7737-43. · 10.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The partial unfolding of human lysozyme underlies its conversion from the soluble state into amyloid fibrils observed in a fatal hereditary form of systemic amyloidosis. To understand the molecular origins of the disease, it is critical to characterize the structural and physicochemical properties of the amyloidogenic states of the protein. Here we provide a high-resolution view of the unfolding process at low pH for three different lysozyme variants, the wild-type protein and the mutants I56T and I59T, which show variable stabilities and propensities to aggregate in vitro. Using a range of biophysical techniques that includes differential scanning calorimetry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we demonstrate that thermal unfolding under amyloidogenic solution conditions involves a cooperative loss of native tertiary structure, followed by progressive unfolding of a compact, molten globule-like denatured state ensemble as the temperature is increased. The width of the temperature window over which the denatured ensemble progressively unfolds correlates with the relative amyloidogenicity and stability of these variants, and the region of lysozyme that unfolds first maps to that which forms the core of the amyloid fibrils formed under similar conditions. Together, these results present a coherent picture at atomic resolution of the initial events underlying amyloid formation by a globular protein.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 10/2010; 132(44):15580-8. · 10.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aggregation of the intrinsically disordered protein α-synuclein to form fibrillar amyloid structures is intimately associated with a variety of neurological disorders, most notably Parkinson's disease. The molecular mechanism of α-synuclein aggregation and toxicity is not yet understood in any detail, not least because of the paucity of structural probes through which to study the behavior of such a disordered system. Here, we describe an investigation involving a single-domain camelid antibody, NbSyn2, selected by phage display techniques to bind to α-synuclein, including the exploration of its effects on the in vitro aggregation of the protein under a variety of conditions. We show using isothermal calorimetric methods that NbSyn2 binds specifically to monomeric α-synuclein with nanomolar affinity and by means of NMR spectroscopy that it interacts with the four C-terminal residues of the protein. This latter finding is confirmed by the determination of a crystal structure of NbSyn2 bound to a peptide encompassing the nine C-terminal residues of α-synuclein. The NbSyn2:α-synuclein interaction is mediated mainly by side-chain interactions while water molecules cross-link the main-chain atoms of α-synuclein to atoms of NbSyn2, a feature we believe could be important in intrinsically disordered protein interactions more generally. The aggregation behavior of α-synuclein at physiological pH, including the morphology of the resulting fibrillar structures, is remarkably unaffected by the presence of NbSyn2 and indeed we show that NbSyn2 binds strongly to the aggregated as well as to the soluble forms of α-synuclein. These results give strong support to the conjecture that the C-terminal region of the protein is not directly involved in the mechanism of aggregation and suggest that binding of NbSyn2 could be a useful probe for the identification of α-synuclein aggregation in vitro and possibly in vivo.
Journal of Molecular Biology 09/2010; 402(2):326-43. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Helicobacter pylori establishes life-long infections in the gastric mucosa of over 1 billion people worldwide. In many cases, without specific antimicrobial intervention, H. pylori infected individuals will develop type B gastritis, chronic peptic ulcers and, more rarely, gastric neoplasias. Conventional antimicrobial therapy has been complicated by dramatic increases in resistance to macrolides, metronidazole and fluoroquinolones. Here, we report the development of novel therapeutics that specifically target the unique flavodoxin component of an essential metabolic pathway of H. pylori. With the use of high-throughput screening methodology, we have tested 10,000 chemicals and have identified 29 compounds that bind flavodoxin, four of which interrupted in vitro electron transfer to flavodoxin physiological partners. Three of these compounds are bactericidal and promisingly selective for H. pylori. The minimal inhibitory concentrations of two of them are 10 times lower than their minimal cytotoxic concentrations for HeLa cells. Importantly, neither of the four inhibitors is toxic for mice after administration of 1-10 mg kg(-1) doses twice a day for 5 days. Enzymatic, thermodynamic and structural characterization of the inhibitor-flavodoxin complexes suggests these compounds could act by modifying the redox potentials of flavodoxin. These newly discovered inhibitors represent promising selective leads against the different diseases associated to H. pylori infection.
ACS Chemical Biology 10/2009; 4(11):928-38. · 5.44 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increasing evidence links the misfolding and aberrant self-assembly of proteins with the molecular events that underlie a range of neurodegenerative diseases, yet the mechanistical details of these processes are still poorly understood. The fact that many of these proteins are intrinsically unstructured makes it particularly challenging to develop strategies for discovering small molecule inhibitors of their aggregation. We present here a broad biophysical approach that enables us to characterize the mechanisms of interaction between alpha-synuclein, a protein whose aggregation is closely connected with Parkinson's disease, and two small molecules, Congo red and Lacmoid, which inhibit its fibrillization. Both compounds are found to interact with the N-terminal and central regions of the monomeric protein although with different binding mechanisms and affinities. The differences can be attributed to the chemical nature of the compounds as well as their abilities to self-associate. We further show that alpha-synuclein binding and aggregation inhibition are mediated by small oligomeric species of the compounds that interact with distinct regions of the monomeric protein. These findings provide potential explanations of the nonspecific antiamyloid effect observed for these compounds as well as important mechanistical information for future drug discovery efforts targeting the misfolding and aggregation of intrinsically unstructured proteins.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inborn error of metabolism caused by mutations in phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). Over 500 disease-causing mutations have been identified in humans, most of which result in PAH protein misfolding and increased turnover in vivo. The use of pharmacological chaperones to stabilize or promote correct folding of mutant proteins represents a promising new direction in the treatment of misfolding diseases. We performed a high-throughput ligand screen of over 1,000 pharmacological agents and identified 4 compounds (I-IV) that enhanced the thermal stability of PAH and did not show substantial inhibition of PAH activity. In further studies, compounds III (3-amino-2-benzyl-7-nitro-4-(2-quinolyl)-1,2-dihydroisoquinolin-1-one) and IV (5,6-dimethyl-3-(4-methyl-2-pyridinyl)-2-thioxo-2,3-dihydrothieno[2,3- d]pyrimidin-4(1H)-one) stabilized the functional tetrameric conformation of recombinant WT-PAH and PKU mutants. These compounds also significantly increased activity and steady-state PAH protein levels in cells transiently transfected with either WT-PAH or PKU mutants. Furthermore, PAH activity in mouse liver increased after a 12-day oral administration of low doses of compounds III and IV. Thus, we have identified 2 small molecules that may represent promising alternatives in the treatment of PKU.
Journal of Clinical Investigation 08/2008; 118(8):2858-67. · 12.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Partly unfolded protein conformations close in energy to the native state may be involved in protein functioning and also be related to folding diseases, but yet their structure and energetics are poorly understood. One such conformation, the monomeric and well-behaved molten globule of Helicobacter pylori apoflavodoxin, is here investigated to provide, in a wide pH interval, a complete thermodynamic description of its unfolding equilibrium and the equilibrium linking molten globule and native state. All thermodynamic and molecular properties of the molten globule here analyzed are characteristic of a partly unfolded conformation, and their differences with those of the native state are typically quantitative rather than qualitative. The stability data depict a native state ensemble where the relative populations of the different intermediates are strongly modulated by pH. Whereas the molten globule is dominant at pH 2.0, at neutral pH it is just the least stable of three partly unfolded intermediates populated by this protein. It is of interest that the energy rank of these intermediates at pH 7.0 is consistent with their likelihood to overcome the native state and become the more stable conformation when the native state protein is subjected to heat or mutation stress. Given the small volume difference between molten globule and native state, neither crowding agents nor osmolytes can drive the molten globule back to the native state. This observation, which is in qualitative accord with predictions of simple excluded volume theory, indicates that molecular crowding in vivo is not an effective mechanism to minimize partial unfolding events leading to equilibrium intermediates.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Flavodoxin is an essential protein for Helicobacter pylori, a pathogen living in the very acidic environment of the gastric tract and responsible for several diseases. We report the conformational stability of the protein in neutral and acidic pH. The apoprotein remains native between pH 12 and 5 and adopts a monomeric molten globule conformation at more acidic pH values. The equilibrium unfolding in urea appears two-state for either conformation, but the native one coexists with a hidden equilibrium intermediate of very similar properties. The stability of H. pylori apoflavodoxin is higher than that of the Anabaena homologue throughout the entire pH interval, which may be related to better charge compensation. H. pylori apoflavodoxin is strongly stabilized by its FMN cofactor. A global analysis of apo- and holoflavodoxin equilibrium unfolding, with and without excess FMN, indicates that the cofactor only binds to the native state. Some physical-chemical properties of the protein may represent an adaptation to the acidic environment. Unlike the apoflavodoxin from Anabaena, which becomes highly insoluble at pH 5.0, that from H. pylori remains soluble to at least 40 microm. This fact, together with the high stability of the apoprotein at this low pH that can arise in the bacteria cytoplasm, seems useful to allow newly synthesized apoflavodoxin molecules to fold and remain soluble to accomplish cofactor binding, which in turn increases the stability. Also, whenever the cytoplasmic pH drops to 5, preexisting flavodoxin molecules will remain folded and soluble and will retain the FMN cofactor, thus remaining functional.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 03/2008; 283(5):2883-95. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Flavodoxin has been recently recognized as an essential protein for a number of pathogenic bacteria including Helicobacter pylori, where it has been proposed to constitute a target for antibacterial drug development. One way we are exploring to screen for novel inhibitory compounds is to perform thermal upshift assays, for which a detailed knowledge of protein thermostability and cofactor binding properties is of great help. However, very little is known on the stability and ligand binding properties of H. pylori flavodoxin, and its peculiar FMN binding site together with the variety of behaviors observed within the flavodoxin family preclude extrapolations. We have thus performed a detailed experimental and computational analysis of the thermostability and cofactor binding energetics of H. pylori flavodoxin, and we have found that the thermal unfolding equilibrium is more complex that any other previously described for flavodoxins as it involves the accumulation of two distinct equilibrium intermediates. Fortunately the entire stability and binding data can be satisfactorily fitted to a model, summarized in a simple phase diagram, where the cofactor only binds to the native state. On the other hand, we show how variability of thermal unfolding behavior within the flavodoxin family can be predicted using structure-energetics relationships implemented in the COREX algorithm. The different distribution and ranges of local stabilities of the Anabaena and H. pylori apoflavodoxins explain the essential experimental differences observed: much lower Tm1, greater resistance to global unfolding, and more pronounced cold denaturation in H. pylori. Finally, a new strategy is proposed to identify using COREX structural characteristics of equilibrium intermediate states populated during protein unfolding.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Flavodoxins, noncovalent complexes between apoflavodoxins and flavin mononucleotide (FMN), are useful models to investigate the mechanism of protein/flavin recognition. In this respect, the only available crystal structure of an apoflavodoxin (that from Anabaena) showed a closed isoalloxazine pocket and the presence of a bound phosphate ion, which posed many questions on the recognition mechanism and on the potential physiological role exerted by phosphate ions. To address these issues we report here the X-ray structure of the apoflavodoxin from the pathogen Helicobacter pylori. The protein naturally lacks one of the conserved aromatic residues that close the isoalloxazine pocket in Anabaena, and the structure has been determined in a medium lacking phosphate. In spite of these significant differences, the isoallozaxine pocket in H. pylori apoflavodoxin appears also closed and a chloride ion is bound at a native-like FMN phosphate site. It seems thus that it is a general characteristic of apoflavodoxins to display closed, non-native, isoalloxazine binding sites together with native-like, rather promiscuous, phosphate binding sites that can bear other available small anions present in solution. In this respect, both binding energy hot spots of the apoflavodoxin/FMN complex are initially unavailable to FMN binding and the specific spot for FMN recognition may depend on the dynamics of the two candidate regions. Molecular dynamics simulations show that the isoalloxazine binding loops are intrinsically flexible at physiological temperatures, thus facilitating the intercalation of the cofactor, and that their mobility is modulated by the anion bound at the phosphate site.
Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 12/2007; 69(3):581-94. · 3.34 Impact Factor