Kirill Alexandrov

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Publications (125)661.7 Total impact

  • Viktor Stein, Kirill Alexandrov
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    ABSTRACT: The bottom-up design of protein-based signaling networks is a key goal of synthetic biology; yet, it remains elusive due to our inability to tailor-make signal transducers and receptors that can be readily compiled into defined signaling networks. Here, we report a generic approach for the construction of protein-based molecular switches based on artficially autoinhibited proteases. Using structure-guided design and directed protein evolution, we created signal transducers based on artificially autoinhibited proteases that can be activated following site-specific proteolysis and also demonstrate the modular design of an allosterically regulated protease receptor following recombination with an affinity clamp peptide receptor. Notably, the receptor's mode of action can be varied from >5-fold switch-OFF to >30-fold switch-ON solely by changing the length of the connecting linkers, demonstrating a high functional plasticity not previously observed in naturally occurring receptor systems. We also create an integrated signaling circuit based on two orthogonal autoinhibited protease units that can propagate and amplify molecular queues generated by the protease receptor. Finally, we present a generic two-component receptor architecture based on proximity-based activation of two autoinhibited proteases. Overall, the approach allows the design of protease-based signaling networks that, in principle, can be connected to any biological process.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Munc18-1 is a critical component of the core machinery controlling neuroexocytosis. Recently, mutations in Munc18-1 leading to the development of early infantile epileptic encephalopathy have been discovered. However, which degradative pathway controls Munc18-1 levels and how it impacts on neuroexocytosis in this pathology is unknown. Using neurosecretory cells deficient in Munc18, we show that a disease-linked mutation, C180Y, renders the protein unstable at 37°C. Although the mutated protein retains its function as t-SNARE chaperone, neuroexocytosis is impaired, a defect that can be rescued at a lower permissive temperature. We reveal that Munc18-1 undergoes K48-linked polyubiquitination, which is highly increased by the mutation, leading to proteasomal, but not lysosomal, degradation. Our data demonstrate that functional Munc18-1 levels are controlled through polyubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. The C180Y disease-causing mutation greatly potentiates this degradative pathway, rendering Munc18-1 unable to facilitate neuroexocytosis, a phenotype that is reversed at a permissive temperature.
    Cell reports. 10/2014;
  • Zakir Tnimov, Daniel Abankwa, Kirill Alexandrov
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    ABSTRACT: Protein prenylation is a post-translational modification where farnesyl or geranylgeranyl groups are enzymatically attached to a C-terminal cysteine residue. This modification is essential for the activity of small cellular GTPases, as it allows them to associate with intracellular membranes. Dissociated from membranes, prenylated proteins need to be transported through the aqueous cytoplasm by protein carriers that shield the hydrophobic anchor from the solvent. One such carrier is Rho GDP dissociation inhibitor (RhoGDI). Recently, it was shown that prenylated Rho proteins that are not associated with RhoGDI are subjected to proteolysis in the cell. We hypothesized that the role of RhoGDI might be not only to associate with prenylated proteins but also to regulate prenylation process in the cell. This idea is supported by the fact that RhoGDI binds both unprenylated and prenylated Rho proteins with high affinity in vitro, and hence, these interactions may affect the kinetics of prenylation. We addressed this question experimentally and found that RhoGDI increased the catalytic efficiency of geranylgeranyl transferase-I in RhoA prenylation. Nevertheless, we did not observe formation of a ternary RhoGDI∗RhoA∗GGTase-I complex, indicating sequential operation of geranylgeranyltransferase-I and RhoGDI. Our results suggest that RhoGDI accelerates Rho prenylation by kinetically trapping the reaction product, thereby increasing the rate of product release.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 09/2014; · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein dimerisation and oligomerisation is commonly used by nature to increase the structural and functional complexity of proteins. Regulated protein assembly is essential to information transfer in signalling, transcriptional and membrane trafficking events. Here we show that a combination of cell-free protein expression, a proximity based interaction assay (AlphaScreen), and single-molecule fluorescence allows rapid mapping of homo and hetero oligomerisation of proteins. We have applied this approach to the family of BAR domain-containing sorting nexin (SNX-BAR) proteins, which are essential regulators of membrane trafficking and remodeling in all eukaryotes. Dimerisation of BAR domains is essential for creating a concave structure capable of sensing and inducing membrane curvature. We have systematically mapped 144 pairwise interactions between the human SNX-BAR proteins and generated an interaction matrix of preferred dimerisation partners for each family member. We find that while nine SNX-BAR proteins are able to form homodimers, all members including the retromer-associated SNX1, SNX2 and SNX5 can form selective heterodimers, while SNX2, SNX4, SNX6 and SNX8 are promiscuous binders of other SNX-BAR proteins. Remarkably, we also observed that the BAR domain lacking SNX3 interacts with SNX8 indicating a different interaction mode. We conclude that the presented combination of methods enables rapid reconstitution and analysis of protein-protein interaction networks in vitro.
    Molecular & cellular proteomics : MCP. 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Signaling from JAK (Janus kinase) protein kinases to STAT (signal transducers and activators of transcription) transcription factors is key to many aspects of biology and medicine, yet the mechanism by which cytokine receptors initiate signaling is enigmatic. We present a complete mechanistic model for activation of receptor-bound JAK2, based on an archetypal cytokine receptor, the growth hormone receptor. For this, we used fluorescence resonance energy transfer to monitor positioning of the JAK2 binding motif in the receptor dimer, substitution of the receptor extracellular domains with Jun zippers to control the position of its transmembrane (TM) helices, atomistic modeling of TM helix movements, and docking of the crystal structures of the JAK2 kinase and its inhibitory pseudokinase domain with an opposing kinase-pseudokinase domain pair. Activation of the receptor dimer induced a separation of its JAK2 binding motifs, driven by a ligand-induced transition from a parallel TM helix pair to a left-handed crossover arrangement. This separation leads to removal of the pseudokinase domain from the kinase domain of the partner JAK2 and pairing of the two kinase domains, facilitating trans-activation. This model may well generalize to other class I cytokine receptors.
    Science 05/2014; 344(6185):1249783. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CCadherin junctions arise from the integrated action of cell adhesion, signaling and the cytoskeleton. At the zonula adherens (ZA)1, a WAVE2-Arp2/3 actin nucleation apparatus is necessary for junctional tension and integrity. But how this is coordinated with cadherin adhesion is not known. We now identify cortactin as a key scaffold for actin regulation at the ZA, that localizes to the ZA through influences from both E-cadherin and N-WASP. Using cell-free protein expression and fluorescent single molecule coincidence assays we demonstrate that cortactin binds directly to the cadherin cytoplasmic tail. However, its concentration with cadherin at the apical ZA also requires N-WASP. Cortactin is known to bind Arp2/3 directly (1). We further show that cortactin can directly bind WAVE2, as well as Arp2/3, and both these interactions are necessary for actin assembly at the ZA. We propose that cortactin serves as a platform that integrates regulators of junctional actin assembly at the ZA.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/2014; · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • Wayne A Johnston, Kirill Alexandrov
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    ABSTRACT: In this chapter, we describe the production and application of a eukaryotic cell-free expression system based on Leishmania tarentolae. This single-celled flagellate allows straightforward and inexpensive cultivation in flasks or bioreactors. Unlike many other Leishmania species, it is nonpathogenic to humans and does not require special laboratory precautions. An additional reason it is a convenient source organism for cell-free lysate production is that all endogenous protein expression can be suppressed by a single antisense oligonucleotide targeting splice leader sequence on the 5'-end of all protein coding RNAs. We describe simple procedures for cell disruption and lysate processing starting from bioreactor culture. We also describe introduction of genetic information via vectors containing species-independent translation initiation sites (SITS). We consider that such an inexpensive eukaryotic cell-free production system has many advantages when expressing multi-subunit proteins or difficult to express proteins.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2014; 1118:1-15. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein-protein interactions are highly desirable targets in drug discovery, yet only a fraction of drugs act as binding inhibitors. Here, we review the different technologies used to find and validate protein-protein interactions. We then discuss how the novel combination of cell-free protein expression, AlphaScreen and single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy can be used to rapidly map protein interaction networks, determine the architecture of protein complexes, and find new targets for drug discovery.
    Interface focus: a theme supplement of Journal of the Royal Society interface 10/2013; 3(5):20130018. · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In mammalian cells three closely related cavin proteins cooperate with the scaffolding protein caveolin to form membrane invaginations known as caveolae. Here we have developed a novel single-molecule fluorescence approach to directly observe interactions and stoichiometries in protein complexes from cell extracts and from in vitro synthesized components. We show that up to 50 cavins associate on a caveola. However, rather than forming a single coat complex containing the three cavin family members, single-molecule analysis reveals an exquisite specificity of interactions between cavin1, cavin2 and cavin3. Changes in membrane tension can flatten the caveolae, causing the release of the cavin coat and its disassembly into separate cavin1-cavin2 and cavin1-cavin3 subcomplexes. Each of these subcomplexes contain 9 ± 2 cavin molecules and appear to be the building blocks of the caveolar coat. High resolution immunoelectron microscopy suggests a remarkable nanoscale organization of these separate subcomplexes, forming individual striations on the surface of caveolae. DOI:
    eLife Sciences 01/2013; 3:e01434. · 8.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Biochemical and structural analysis of macromolecular protein assemblies remains challenging due to technical difficulties in recombinant expression, engineering and reconstitution of multisubunit complexes. Here we use a recently developed cell-free protein expression system based on the protozoan Leishmania tarentolae to produce in vitro all six subunits of the 600 kDa HOPS and CORVET membrane tethering complexes. We demonstrate that both subcomplexes and the entire HOPS complex can be reconstituted in vitro resulting in a comprehensive subunit interaction map. To our knowledge this is the largest eukaryotic protein complex in vitro reconstituted to date. Using the truncation and interaction analysis, we demonstrate that the complex is assembled through short hydrophobic sequences located in the C-terminus of the individual Vps subunits. Based on this data we propose a model of the HOPS and CORVET complex assembly that reconciles the available biochemical and structural data.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(12):e81534. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein prenylation is a widespread post-translational modification in eukaryotes that plays a crucial role in membrane targeting and signal transduction. RabGTPases is the largest group of post-translationally C-terminally geranylgeranylated. All Rabs are processed by Rab geranylgeranyl-transferase and Rab escort protein (REP). Human genetic defects resulting in the loss one of two REP isoforms REP-1, lead to underprenylation of RabGTPases that manifests in retinal degradation and blindness known as choroideremia. In this study we used a combination of microinjections and chemo-enzymatic tagging to establish whether Rab GTPases are prenylated and delivered to their target cellular membranes with the same rate. We demonstrate that although all tested Rab GTPases display the same rate of membrane delivery, the extent of Rab prenylation in 5 hour time window vary by more than an order of magnitude. We found that Rab27a, Rab27b, Rab38 and Rab42 display the slowest prenylation in vivo and in the cell. Our work points to possible contribution of Rab38 to the emergence of choroideremia in addition to Rab27a and Rab27b.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(12):e81758. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hundreds of eukaryotic signaling proteins require myristoylation to functionally associate with intracellular membranes. N-myristoyl transferases (NMT) responsible for this modification are established drug targets in cancer and infectious diseases. Here we describe NANOMS (NANOclustering and Myristoylation Sensors), biosensors that exploit the FRET resulting from plasma membrane nanoclustering of myristoylated membrane targeting sequences of Gαi2, Yes- or Src-kinases fused to fluorescent proteins. When expressed in mammalian cells, NANOMS report on loss of membrane anchorage due to chemical or genetic inhibition of myristoylation e.g. by blocking NMT and methionine-aminopeptidase (Met-AP). We used Yes-NANOMS to assess inhibitors of NMT and a cherry-picked compound library of putative Met-AP inhibitors. Thus we successfully confirmed the activity of DDD85646 and fumagillin in our cellular assay. The developed assay is unique in its ability to identify modulators of signaling protein nanoclustering, and is amenable to high throughput screening for chemical or genetic inhibitors of functional membrane anchorage of myristoylated proteins in mammalian cells.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(6):e66425. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein prenylation is required for membrane anchorage of small GTPases. Correct membrane targeting is essential for their biological activity. Signal output of the prenylated proto-oncogene Ras in addition critically depends on its organization into nanoscale proteolipid assemblies of the plasma membrane, so called nanoclusters. While protein prenylation is an established drug target, only a handful of nanoclustering inhibitors are known, partially due to the lack of appropriate assays to screen for such compounds. Here, we describe three cell-based high-throughput screening amenable Förster resonance energy transfer NANOclustering and Prenylation Sensors (NANOPS) that are specific for Ras, Rho, and Rab proteins. Rab-NANOPS provides the first evidence for nanoclustering of Rab proteins. Using NANOPS in a cell-based chemical screen, we now identify macrotetrolides, known ionophoric antibiotics, as submicromolar disruptors of Ras nanoclustering and MAPK signaling.
    Chemistry & biology 07/2012; 19(7):866-74. · 6.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Small GTPases of the Rho family regulate cytoskeleton remodeling, cell polarity, and transcription, as well as the cell cycle, in eukaryotic cells. Membrane delivery and recycling of the Rho GTPases is mediated by Rho GDP dissociation inhibitor (RhoGDI), which forms a stable complex with prenylated Rho GTPases. We analyzed the interaction of RhoGDI with the active and inactive forms of prenylated and unprenylated RhoA. We demonstrate that RhoGDI binds the prenylated form of RhoA·GDP with unexpectedly high affinity (K(d) = 5 pm). The very long half-life of the complex is reduced 25-fold on RhoA activation, with a concomitant reduction in affinity (K(d) = 3 nm). The 2.8-Å structure of the RhoA·guanosine 5'-[β,γ-imido] triphosphate (GMPPNP)·RhoGDI complex demonstrated that complex formation forces the activated RhoA into a GDP-bound conformation in the absence of nucleotide hydrolysis. We demonstrate that membrane extraction of Rho GTPase by RhoGDI is a thermodynamically favored passive process that operates through a series of progressively tighter intermediates, much like the one that is mediated by RabGDI.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 05/2012; 287(32):26549-62. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Post-translational attachment of geranylgeranyl isoprenoids to Rab GTPases, the key organizers of intracellular vesicular transport, is essential for their function. Rab geranylgeranyl transferase (RabGGTase) is responsible for prenylation of Rab proteins. Recently, RabGGTase inhibitors have been proposed to be potential therapeutics for treatment of cancer and osteoporosis. However, the development of RabGGTase selective inhibitors is complicated by its structural and functional similarity to other protein prenyltransferases. Herein we report identification of the natural product psoromic acid (PA) that potently and selectively inhibits RabGGTase with an IC(50) of 1.3 μM. Structure-activity relationship analysis suggested a minimal structure involving the depsidone core with a 3-hydroxyl and 4-aldehyde motif for binding to RabGGTase. Analysis of the crystal structure of the RabGGTase:PA complex revealed that PA forms largely hydrophobic interactions with the isoprenoid binding site of RabGGTase and that it attaches covalently to the N-terminus of the α subunit. We found that in contrast to other protein prenyltransferases, RabGGTase is autoinhibited through N-terminal (α)His2 coordination with the catalytic zinc ion. Mutation of (α)His dramatically enhances the reaction rate, indicating that the activity of RabGGTase is likely regulated in vivo. The covalent binding of PA to the N-terminus of the RabGGTase α subunit seems to potentiate its interaction with the active site and explains the selectivity of PA for RabGGTase. Therefore, psoromic acid provides a new starting point for the development of selective RabGGTase inhibitors.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 04/2012; 134(17):7384-91. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein modification with isoprenoid lipids affects hundreds of signaling proteins in eukaryotic cells. Modification of isoprenoids with reporter groups is the main approach for the creation of probes for the analysis of protein prenylation in vitro and in vivo. Here, we describe a new strategy for the synthesis of functionalized phosphoisoprenoids that uses an aminederivatized isoprenoid scaffold as a starting point for the synthesis of functionalized phosphoisoprenoid libraries. This overcomes a long-standing problem in the field, where multistep synthesis had to be carried out for each individual isoprenoid analogue. The described approach enabled us to synthesize a range of new compounds, including two novel fluorescent isoprenoids that previously could not be generated by conventional means. The fluorescent probes that were developed using the described approach possess significant spectroscopic advantages to all previously generated fluorescent isoprenoid analogue. Using these analogues for flow cytometry and cell imaging, we analyzed the uptake of isoprenoids by mammalian cells and zebrafish embryos. Furthermore, we demonstrate that derivatization of the scaffold can be coupled in a one-pot reaction to enzymatic incorporation of the resulting isoprenoid group into proteins. This enables rapid evaluation of functional groups for compatibility with individual prenyltransferases and identification of the prenyltransferase specific substrates.
    ChemBioChem 02/2012; 13(5):674-83. · 3.74 Impact Factor
  • Yao-Wen Wu, Roger S Goody, Kirill Alexandrov
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    ABSTRACT: Rab GTPases play a key role in the regulation of membrane trafficking. Post-translational geranylgeranylation is critical for their biological activity and is conferred by Rab geranylgeranyl transferease (RabGGTase), together with an accessory factor, Rab escort protein (REP). Mechanistic studies of Rab prenylation and identification of RabGGTase inhibitors require sensitive reporters of Rab prenylation. In the present work, a combination of protein engineering and expressed protein ligation was used to construct a library of semisynthetic Rab7 fluorescent conjugates. In order to avoid synthesis of a large number of fluorescently labeled peptides, we developed a strategy that combined thiol-reactive dye-labeling of cysteine with in vitro protein ligation. Application of this strategy required optimization of labeling and ligation conditions to promote thiol labeling and disfavor intramolecular cyclization. Using this approach, we constructed 46 fluorescent sensors with different spectral properties that reported on the interaction of Rab7 with RabGGTase, REP-1, and the overall prenylation reaction. Two constructs, Rab7Δ3CCK(NBD) and Rab7Δ2SCCC-dans, displayed 2.5- and 1.5-fold increase in fluorescence, respectively, upon prenylation. Moreover, dansyl-, NBD (4-nitro-benzofurazan)-, I-BA-, and I-SO-labeled Rab7 conjugates exhibited two- to tenfold change in fluorescence upon binding to REP or RabGGTase. These fluorescent sensors allowed us to monitor Rab prenylation in real time and to investigate the assembly of Rab-REP binary and Rab-REP-RabGGTase ternary complexes.
    ChemBioChem 11/2011; 12(18):2813-21. · 3.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cell-free protein expression is an important tool for a rapid production, engineering and labeling of recombinant proteins. However the complex protocols for preparation of eukaryotic cell-free protein expression systems result in high manufacturing costs and limit their utility. Recently we reported a novel cell-free expression system based on the lysate of a fermentable protozoan Leishmania tarentolae. Herein we describe a protocol for high throughput protein expression using Leishmania cell-free lysate. The protocol combines PCR-based synthesis and engineering of translation templates with a combined transcription-translation system. The protocol is adapted to multiwell plate format and allows translation of large protein libraries. In the presented example we translate in vitro and isolate a nearly complete complement of mammalian Rab GTPases. Further applications and developments of the system are discussed.
    Methods 06/2011; 55(1):58-64. · 3.64 Impact Factor
  • Angewandte Chemie International Edition 05/2011; 50(21):4957-61. · 11.34 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
661.70 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2014
    • University of Queensland
      • • Division of Molecular Cell Biology
      • • Institute for Molecular Bioscience
      • • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
      Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 2013
    • Åbo Akademi University
      • Turku Centre for Biotechnology
      Turku, Province of Western Finland, Finland
  • 1998–2011
    • Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology
      • Department of Physical Biochemistry
      Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2010
    • Gracie Square Hospital, New York, NY
      New York City, New York, United States
    • The Rockefeller University
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2007
    • Ruhr-Universität Bochum
      • Institut für Physiologische Chemie
      Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2006
    • University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice
      Budejovice, Jihočeský, Czech Republic
  • 2003
    • Max Planck Institute for Medical Research
      • Department of Biomolecular Mechanisms
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 1993–1996
    • European Molecular Biology Laboratory
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 1994
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom