Proteins: Structure, Function, Bioinformatics
The CASP experiment is a biannual benchmark for assessing protein structure prediction methods. In CASP11, RBO Aleph ranked as one of the top-performing automated servers in the free modeling category. This category consists of targets for which structural templates are not easily retrievable. We analyze the performance of RBO Aleph and show that its success in CASP was a result of its ab initio structure prediction protocol. A detailed analysis of this protocol demonstrates that two components unique to our method greatly contributed to prediction quality: residue–residue contact prediction by EPC-map and contact-guided conformational space search by model-based search (MBS). Interestingly, our analysis also points to a possible fundamental problem in evaluating the performance of protein structure prediction methods: Improvements in components of the method do not necessarily lead to improvements of the entire method. This points to the fact that these components interact in ways that are poorly understood. This problem, if indeed true, represents a significant obstacle to community-wide progress. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
The Sarcolipin (SLN) is a transmembrane protein that can form a self-assembled pentamer. In this work, the homology modeling and all-atom molecular dynamic (MD) simulation was performed to study the model of SLN pentamer in POPC (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine) membrane. The potential of mean force (PMF) was calculated for transmembrane transportation of Na+, Cl− and water molecule along the pore channel of penta-SLN complex. The root mean square deviation (RMSD) of the SLN pentamer in POPC membrane showed that the stabilized SLN protein complex could exist in the membrane and that the Na+ and Cl− could not permeate through the channel when the pore was under the vacuum state, but the water could permeate through from cytoplasm to lumen. Under the aqueous state, our simulation demonstrated that hydrated state of Na+ and Cl− could pass through the channel. The PMF and radii of the pore showed that the channel had a gate at Leu21 that is a key hydrophobicity residue in the channel. Our simulations help to clarify and to understand better the SLN pentamer channel that had a hydrophobic gate and could switch Na+ and Cl− ion permeability by hydrated and vacuum states. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Toward rational thermostabilization of Aspergillus oryzae cutinase: Insights into catalytic and structural stability
Cutinases are powerful hydrolases that can cleave ester bonds of polyesters such as poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), opening up new options for enzymatic routes for polymer recycling and surface modification reactions. Cutinase from Aspergillus oryzae (AoC) is promising owing to the presence of an extended groove near the catalytic triad which is important for the orientation of polymeric chains. However, the catalytic efficiency of AoC on rigid polymers like PET is limited by its low thermostability; as it is essential to work at or over the glass transition temperature (Tg) of PET, that is, 70°C. Consequently, in this study we worked toward the thermostabilization of AoC. Use of Rosetta computational protein design software in conjunction with rational design led to a 6°C improvement in the thermal unfolding temperature (Tm) and a 10-fold increase in the half-life of the enzyme activity at 60°C. Surprisingly, thermostabilization did not improve the rate or temperature optimum of enzyme activity. Three notable findings are presented as steps toward designing more thermophilic cutinase: (a) surface salt bridge optimization produced enthalpic stabilization, (b) mutations to proline reduced the entropy loss upon folding, and (c) the lack of a correlative increase in the temperature optimum of catalytic activity with thermodynamic stability suggests that the active site is locally denatured at a temperature below the Tm of the global structure. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Structure and functional analysis of the siderophore periplasmic binding protein from the fuscachelin gene cluster of Thermobifida fusca
Iron acquisition is a complex, multicomponent process critical for most organisms' survival and virulence. Small iron chelating molecules, siderophores, mediate transport as key components of common pathways for iron assimilation in many microorganisms. The chemistry and biology of the extraordinary tight and specific metal binding siderophores is of general interest in terms of host/guest chemistry and is a potential target toward the development of therapeutic treatments for microbial virulence. The siderophore pathway of the moderate thermophile, Thermobifida fusca, is an excellent model system to study the process in Gram-positive bacteria. Here we describe the structure and characterization of the siderophore periplasmic binding protein, FscJ from the fuscachelin gene cluster of T. fusca. The structure shows a di-domain arrangement connected with a long α-helix hinge. Several X-ray structures detail ligand-free conformational changes at different pH values, illustrating complex interdomain flexibility of the siderophore receptors. We demonstrated that FscJ has a unique recognition mechanism and details the binding interaction with ferric-fuscachelin A through ITC and docking analysis. The presented work provides a structural basis for the complex molecular mechanisms of siderophore recognition and transportation. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Predicting protein binding affinities from structural data has remained elusive, a difficulty owing to the variety of protein binding modes. Using the structure-affinity-benchmark (SAB, 144 cases with bound/unbound crystal structures and experimental affinity measurements), prediction has been undertaken either by fitting a model using a handfull of predefined variables, or by training a complex model from a large pool of parameters (typically hundreds). The former route unnecessarily restricts the model space, while the latter is prone to overfitting. We design models in a third tier, using 12 variables describing enthalpic and entropic variations upon binding, and a model selection procedure identifying the best sparse model built from a subset of these variables. Using these models, we report three main results. First, we present models yielding a marked improvement of affinity predictions. For the whole dataset, we present a model predicting Kd within 1 and 2 orders of magnitude for 48% and 79% of cases, respectively. These statistics jump to 62% and 89% respectively, for the subset of the SAB consisting of high resolution structures. Second, we show that these performances owe to a new parameter encoding interface morphology and packing properties of interface atoms. Third, we argue that interface flexibility and prediction hardness do not correlate, and that for flexible cases, a performance matching that of the whole SAB can be achieved. Overall, our work suggests that the affinity prediction problem could be partly solved using databases of high resolution complexes whose affinity is known. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Interaction between bound water molecules and local protein structures: A statistical analysis of the hydrogen bond structures around bound water molecules
Water molecules play an important role in protein folding and protein interactions through their structural association with proteins. Examples of such structural association can be found in protein crystal structures, and can often explain protein functionality in the context of structure. We herein report the systematic analysis of the local structures of proteins interacting with water molecules, and the characterization of their geometric features. We first examined the interaction of water molecules with a large local interaction environment by comparing the preference of water molecules in three regions, namely, the protein–protein interaction (PPI) interfaces, the crystal contact (CC) interfaces, and the non-interfacial regions. High preference of water molecules to the PPI and CC interfaces was found. In addition, the bound water on the PPI interface was more favorably associated with the complex interaction structure, implying that such water-mediated structures may participate in the shaping of the PPI interface. The pairwise water-mediated interaction was then investigated, and the water-mediated residue–residue interaction potential was derived. Subsequently, the types of polar atoms surrounding the water molecules were analyzed, and the preference of the hydrogen bond acceptor was observed. Furthermore, the geometries of the structures interacting with water were analyzed, and it was found that the major structure on the protein surface exhibited planar geometry rather than tetrahedral geometry. Several previously undiscovered characteristics of water–protein interactions were unfolded in this study, and are expected to lead to a better understanding of protein structure and function. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
In this paper, we report the results of molecular dynamics simulations of AXH monomer of Ataxin-1. The AXH domain plays a crucial role in Ataxin-1 aggregation, which accompanies the initiation and progression of Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. Our simulations involving both classical and replica exchange molecular dynamics, followed by principal component analysis of the trajectories obtained, reveal substantial conformational fluctuations of the protein structure, especially in the N-terminal region. We show that these fluctuations can be generated by thermal noise since the free energy barriers between conformations are small enough for thermally stimulated transitions. In agreement with the previous experimental findings, our results can be considered as a basis for a future design of ataxin aggregation inhibitors that will require several key conformations identified in the present study as molecular targets for ligand binding. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Molecular dynamics (MD) trajectories are very large data sets that contain substantial information about the dynamic behavior of a protein. Condensing these data into a form that can provide intuitively useful understanding of the molecular behavior during the trajectory is a substantial challenge that has received relatively little attention. Here, we introduce the sigma-r plot, a plot of the standard deviation of intermolecular distances as a function of that distance. This representation of global dynamics contains within a single, one-dimensional plot, the average range of motion between pairs of atoms within a macromolecule. Comparison of sigma-r plots calculated from 10 ns trajectories of proteins representing the four major SCOP fold classes indicates diversity of dynamic behaviors which are recognizably different among the four classes. Differences in domain structure and molecular weight also produce recognizable features in sigma-r plots, reflective of differences in global dynamics. Plots generated from trajectories with progressively increasing simulation time reflect the increased sampling of the structural ensemble as a function of time. Single amino acid replacements can give rise to changes in global dynamics detectable through comparison of sigma-r plots. Dynamic behavior of substructures can be monitored by careful choice of interatomic vectors included in the calculation. These examples provide demonstrations of the utility of the sigma-r plot to provide a simple measure of the global dynamics of a macromolecule. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Amino acid alphabet reduction preserves fold information contained in contact interactions in proteins
To reduce complexity, understand generalized rules of protein folding, and facilitate de novo protein design, the 20-letter amino acid alphabet is commonly reduced to a smaller alphabet by clustering amino acids based on some measure of similarity. In this work, we seek the optimal alphabet that preserves as much of the structural information found in long-range (contact) interactions among amino acids in natively-folded proteins. We employ the Information Maximization Device, based on information theory, to partition the amino acids into well-defined clusters. Numbering from 2 to 19 groups, these optimal clusters of amino acids, while generated automatically, embody well-known properties of amino acids such as hydrophobicity/polarity, charge, size, and aromaticity, and are demonstrated to maintain the discriminative power of long-range interactions with minimal loss of mutual information. Our measurements suggest that reduced alphabets (of less than 10) are able to capture virtually all of the information residing in native contacts and may be sufficient for fold recognition, as demonstrated by extensive threading tests. In an expansive survey of the literature, we observe that alphabets derived from various approaches—including those derived from physicochemical intuition, local structure considerations, and sequence alignments of remote homologs—fare consistently well in preserving contact interaction information, highlighting a convergence in the various factors thought to be relevant to the folding code. Moreover, we find that alphabets commonly used in experimental protein design are nearly optimal and are largely coherent with observations that have arisen in this work. Proteins 2015; 83:2198–2216. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Exploring interaction mechanisms of the inhibitor binding to the VP35 IID region of Ebola virus by all atom molecular dynamics simulation method
Ebola viruses (EBOVs) cause an acute and serious illness which is often fatal if untreated, and there is no effective vaccine until now. Multifunctional VP35 is critical for viral replication, RNA silencing suppression and nucleocapsid formation, and it is considered as a future target for the molecular biology technique. In the present work, the binding of inhibitor pyrrole-based compounds (GA017) to wild-type (WT), single (K248A, K251A, and I295A), and double (K248A/I295A) mutant VP35 were investigated by all-atom molecular dynamic (MD) simulations and Molecular Mechanics Generalized Born surface area (MM/GBSA) energy calculation. The calculated results indicate that the binding with GA017 makes the binding pocket more stable and reduces the space of the binding pocket. Moreover, the electrostatic interactions (ΔEele) and VDW energy (ΔEvdw) provide the major forces for affinity binding, and single mutation I295A and double mutation K248A/I295A have great influence on the conformation of the VP35 binding pocket. Interestingly, the residues R300-G301-D302 of I295A form a new helix and the sheet formed by the residues V294-I295-H296-I297 disappears in the double mutation K248A/I295A as compared with WT. Moreover, the binding free energy calculations show that I295A and K248A/I295A mutations decrease of absolute binding free energies while K248A and K251A mutations increase absolute binding free energy. Our calculated results are in good agreement with the experimental results that K248A/I295A double mutant results in near-complete loss of compound binding. The obtained information will be useful for design effective inhibitors for treating Ebola virus. Proteins 2015; 83:2263–2278. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
One difficult aspect of the protein-folding problem is characterizing the non-specific interactions that define packing in protein tertiary structure. To better understand tertiary structure, this work extends the knob-socket model by classifying the interactions of a single knob residue packed into a set of contiguous sockets, or a pocket made up of 4 or more residues. The knob-socket construct allows for a symbolic two-dimensional mapping of pockets. The two-dimensional mapping of pockets provides a simple method to investigate the variety of pocket shapes in order to understand the geometry of protein tertiary surfaces. The diversity of pocket geometries can be organized into groups of pockets that share a common core, which suggests that some interactions in pockets are ancillary to packing. Further analysis of pocket geometries displays a preferred configuration that is right-handed in α-helices and left-handed in β-sheets. The amino acid composition of pockets illustrates the importance of non-polar amino acids in packing as well as position specificity. As expected, all pocket shapes prefer to pack with hydrophobic knobs; however, knobs are not selective for the pockets they pack. Investigating side-chain rotamer preferences for certain pocket shapes uncovers no strong correlations. These findings allow a simple vocabulary based on knobs and sockets to describe protein tertiary packing that supports improved analysis, design and prediction of protein structure. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
We have carried out numerical experiments to investigate the applicability of the global optimization method of conformational space annealing (CSA) to the enhanced NMR protein structure determination over existing PDB structures. The NMR protein structure determination is driven by the optimization of collective multiple restraints arising from experimental data and the basic stereochemical properties of a protein-like molecule. By rigorous and straightforward application of CSA to the identical NMR experimental data used to generate existing PDB structures, we redetermined 56 recent PDB protein structures starting from fully randomized structures. The quality of CSA-generated structures and existing PDB structures were assessed by multiobjective functions in terms of their consistencies with experimental data and the requirements of protein-like stereochemistry. In 54 out of 56 cases, CSA-generated structures were better than existing PDB structures in the Pareto-dominant manner, while in the remaining two cases, it was a tie with mixed results. As a whole, all structural features tested improved in a statistically meaningful manner. The most improved feature was the Ramachandran favored portion of backbone torsion angles with about 8.6% improvement from 88.9% to 97.5% (P-value <10−17). We show that by straightforward application of CSA to the efficient global optimization of an energy function, NMR structures will be of better quality than existing PDB structures. Proteins 2015; 83:2251–2262. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
This article provides a report on the state-of-the-art in the prediction of intra-molecular residue-residue contacts in proteins based on the assessment of the predictions submitted to the CASP11 experiment. The assessment emphasis is placed on the accuracy in predicting long-range contacts. Twenty-nine groups participated in contact prediction in CASP11. At least eight of them used the recently developed evolutionary coupling techniques, with the top group (CONSIP2) reaching precision of 27% on target proteins that could not be modeled by homology. This result indicates a breakthrough in the development of methods based on the correlated mutation approach. Successful prediction of contacts was shown to be practically helpful in modeling three-dimensional structures; in particular target T0806 was modeled exceedingly well with accuracy not yet seen for ab initio targets of this size (>250 residues). Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
For the template-free modeling of human targets of CASP11, we utilized two of our modeling protocols, LEE and LEER. The LEE protocol took CASP11-released server models as the input and used some of them as templates for 3D (three-dimensional) modeling. The template selection procedure was based on the clustering of the server models aided by a community detection method of a server-model network. Restraining energy terms generated from the selected templates together with physical and statistical energy terms were used to build 3D models. Side-chains of the 3D models were rebuilt using target-specific consensus side-chain library along with the SCWRL4 rotamer library, which completed the LEE protocol. The first success factor of the LEE protocol was due to efficient server model screening. The average backbone accuracy of selected server models was similar to that of top 30% server models. The second factor was that a proper energy function along with our optimization method guided us, so that we successfully generated better quality models than the input template models. In 10 out of 24 cases, better backbone structures than the best of input template structures were generated. LEE models were further refined by performing restrained molecular dynamics simulations to generate LEER models. CASP11 results indicate that LEE models were better than the average template models in terms of both backbone structures and side-chain orientations. LEER models were of improved physical realism and stereo-chemistry compared to LEE models, and they were comparable to LEE models in the backbone accuracy. Proteins 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Partial unfolding and refolding for structure refinement: A unified approach of geometric simulations and molecular dynamics
The most successful protein structure prediction methods to date have been template-based modeling (TBM) or homology modeling, which predicts protein structure based on experimental structures. These high accuracy predictions sometimes retain structural errors due to incorrect templates or a lack of accurate templates in the case of low sequence similarity, making these structures inadequate in drug-design studies or molecular dynamics simulations. We have developed a new physics based approach to the protein refinement problem by mimicking the mechanism of chaperons that rehabilitate misfolded proteins. The template structure is unfolded by selectively (targeted) pulling on different portions of the protein using the geometric based technique FRODA, and then refolded using hierarchically restrained replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations (hr-REMD). FRODA unfolding is used to create a diverse set of topologies for surveying near native-like structures from a template and to provide a set of persistent contacts to be employed during re-folding. We have tested our approach on 13 previous CASP targets and observed that this method of folding an ensemble of partially unfolded structures, through the hierarchical addition of contact restraints (that is, first local and then nonlocal interactions), leads to a refolding of the structure along with refinement in most cases (12/13). Although this approach yields refined models through advancement in sampling, the task of blind selection of the best refined models still needs to be solved. Overall, the method can be useful for improved sampling for low resolution models where certain of the portions of the structure are incorrectly modeled. Proteins 2015; 83:2279–2292. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Amino acid positions subject to multiple coevolutionary constraints can be robustly identified by their eigenvector network centrality scores
As proteins evolve, amino acid positions key to protein structure or function are subject to mutational constraints. These positions can be detected by analyzing sequence families for amino acid conservation or for coevolution between pairs of positions. Coevolutionary scores are usually rank-ordered and thresholded to reveal the top pairwise scores, but they also can be treated as weighted networks. Here, we used network analyses to bypass a major complication of coevolution studies: For a given sequence alignment, alternative algorithms usually identify different, top pairwise scores. We reconciled results from five commonly-used, mathematically divergent algorithms (ELSC, McBASC, OMES, SCA, and ZNMI), using the LacI/GalR and 1,6-bisphosphate aldolase protein families as models. Calculations used unthresholded coevolution scores from which column-specific properties such as sequence entropy and random noise were subtracted; “central” positions were identified by calculating various network centrality scores. When compared among algorithms, network centrality methods, particularly eigenvector centrality, showed markedly better agreement than comparisons of the top pairwise scores. Positions with large centrality scores occurred at key structural locations and/or were functionally sensitive to mutations. Further, the top central positions often differed from those with top pairwise coevolution scores: instead of a few strong scores, central positions often had multiple, moderate scores. We conclude that eigenvector centrality calculations reveal a robust evolutionary pattern of constraints—detectable by divergent algorithms—that occur at key protein locations. Finally, we discuss the fact that multiple patterns coexist in evolutionary data that, together, give rise to emergent protein functions. Proteins 2015; 83:2293–2306. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Toward decrypting the allosteric mechanism of the ryanodine receptor based on coarse-grained structural and dynamic modeling
The ryanodine receptors (RyRs) are a family of calcium (Ca) channels that regulate Ca release by undergoing a closed-to-open gating transition in response to action potential or Ca binding. The allosteric mechanism of RyRs gating, which is activated/regulated by ligand/protein binding >200 Å away from the channel gate, remains elusive for the lack of high-resolution structures. Recent solution of the closed-form structures of the RyR1 isoform by cryo-electron microscopy has paved the way for detailed structure-driven studies of RyRs functions. Toward elucidating the allosteric mechanism of RyRs gating, we performed coarse-grained modeling based on the newly solved closed-form structures of RyR1. Our normal mode analysis captured a key mode of collective motions dominating the observed structural variations in RyR1, which features large outward and downward movements of the peripheral domains with the channel remaining closed, and involves hotspot residues that overlap well with key functional sites and disease mutations. In particular, we found a key interaction between a peripheral domain and the Ca-binding EF hand domain, which may allow for direct coupling of Ca binding to the collective motions as captured by the above mode. This key mode was robustly reproduced by the normal mode analysis of the other two closed-form structures of RyR1 solved independently. To elucidate the closed-to-open conformational changes in RyR1 with amino-acid level of details, we flexibly fitted the closed-form structures of RyR1 into a 10-Å cryo-electron microscopy map of the open state. We observed extensive structural changes involving the peripheral domains and the central domains, resulting in the channel pore opening. In sum, our findings have offered unprecedented structural and dynamic insights to the allosteric mechanism of RyR1 via modulation of the key collective motions involved in RyR1 gating. The predicted hotspot residues and open-form conformation of RyR1 will guide future mutational and functional studies. Proteins 2015; 83:2307–2318. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Family 48 cellobiohydrolases are some of the most abundant glycoside hydrolases in nature. They are able to degrade cellulosic biomass, therefore serve as good enzyme candidates for biofuel production. Family 48 cellulases hydrolyze cellulose chains via a processive mechanism, and produce the end products composed of mainly cellobiose as well as other cellooligomers (dp ≤ 4). The challenge of utilizing cellulases in biofuel production lies in their extremely slow turnover rate. One reason for the low enzyme activity is suggested to be the product binding moderately to enzyme and inhibiting its future performance. In this study, we quantitatively evaluated the product inhibitory effect of four family 48 glycoside hydrolases using molecular dynamics simulations and product expulsion free energy calculations. We also suggested a series of single mutants of the four family 48 glycoside hydrolases with theoretically reduced level of product inhibition. The theoretical calculations provide a guide for future experimental studies on making mutant cellulases with enhanced activity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Molecular dynamics simulations elucidate the mode of protein recognition by Skp1 and the F-box domain in the SCF complex
Polyubiquitination of the target protein by a ubiquitin transferring machinery is key to various cellular processes. E3 ligase Skp1-CUL1-F-box (SCF) is one such complex which plays crucial role in substrate recognition and transfer of the ubiquitin molecule. Previous computational studies have focused on S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (Skp2), cullin, and RING-finger proteins of this complex, but the roles of the adapter protein Skp1 and F-box domain of Skp2 have not been determined. Using sub-microsecond molecular dynamics simulations of full-length Skp1, unbound Skp2, Skp2-Cks1 (Cks1: Cyclin-dependent kinases regulatory subunit 1), Skp1-Skp2, and Skp1-Skp2-Cks1 complexes, we have elucidated the function of Skp1 and the F-box domain of Skp2. We found that the L16 loop of Skp1, which was deleted in previous X-ray crystallography studies, can offer additional stability to the ternary complex via its interactions with the C-terminal tail of Skp2. Moreover, Skp1 helices H6, H7, and H8 display vivid conformational flexibility when not bound to Skp2, suggesting that these helices can recognize and lock the F-box proteins. Furthermore, we observed that the F-box domain could rotate (3°-123°), and that the binding partner determined the degree of conformational flexibility. Finally, Skp1 and Skp2 were found to execute a domain motion in Skp1-Skp2 and Skp1-Skp2-Cks1 complexes that could decrease the distance between ubiquitination site of the substrate and the ubiquitin molecule by 3nm. Thus, we propose that both the F-box domain of Skp2 and Skp1-Skp2 domain motions displaying preferential conformational control can together facilitate polyubiquitination of a wide variety of substrates. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Probing the roles of two tryptophans surrounding the unique zinc coordination site in lipase family I.5
A unique zinc domain found in all of the identified members of the lipase family I.5 is surrounded by two conserved tryptophans (W61 and W212). In this study we investigated the role of these hydrophobic residues in thermostability and thermoactivity of the lipase from Bacillus thermocatenulatus (BTL2) taken as the representative of the family. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed that the secondary structure of BTL2 is conserved by the tryptophan mutations (W61A, W212A and W61A/W212A), and that W61 is located in a more rigid and less solvent exposed region than is W212. Thermal denaturation and optimal activity analyses pointed out that zinc induces thermostability and thermoactivity of BTL2, in which both tryptophans W61 and W212 play contributing roles. Molecular explanations describing the roles of these tryptophans were pursued by X-ray crystallography of the open form of the W61A mutant and molecular dynamics simulations which highlighted a critical function for W212 in zinc binding to the coordination site. This study reflects the potential use of hydrophobic amino acids in vicinity of metal coordination sites in lipase biocatalysts design. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.