BMC Structural Biology

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The latest research articles published by BMC Structural Biology
Updated: 10 weeks 5 days ago

Predicted binding site information improves model ranking in protein docking using experimental and computer-generated target structures

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 07:00
Background: Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) mediate the vast majority of biological processes, therefore, significant efforts have been directed to investigate PPIs to fully comprehend cellular functions. Predicting complex structures is critical to reveal molecular mechanisms by which proteins operate. Despite recent advances in the development of new methods to model macromolecular assemblies, most current methodologies are designed to work with experimentally determined protein structures. However, because only computer-generated models are available for a large number of proteins in a given genome, computational tools should tolerate structural inaccuracies in order to perform the genome-wide modeling of PPIs. Results: To address this problem, we developed eRank PPI , an algorithm for the identification of near-native conformations generated by protein docking using experimental structures as well as protein models. The scoring function implemented in eRank PPI employs multiple features including interface probability estimates calculated by eFindSite PPI and a novel contact-based symmetry score. In comparative benchmarks using representative datasets of homo- and hetero-complexes, we show that eRank PPI consistently outperforms state-of-the-art algorithms improving the success rate by ~10 %. Conclusions: eRank PPI was designed to bridge the gap between the volume of sequence data, the evidence of binary interactions, and the atomic details of pharmacologically relevant protein complexes. Tolerating structure imperfections in computer-generated models opens up a possibility to conduct the exhaustive structure-based reconstruction of PPI networks across proteomes. The methods and datasets used in this study are available at
Categories: Journal Articles

Clustering and percolation in protein loop structures

Wed, 10/28/2015 - 19:00
Background: High precision protein loop modelling remains a challenge, both in template based and template independent approaches to protein structure prediction.MethodWe introduce the concepts of protein loop clustering and percolation, to develop a quantitative approach to systematically classify the modular building blocks of loops in crystallographic folded proteins. These fragments are all different parameterisations of a unique kink solution to a generalised discrete nonlinear Schrödinger (DNLS) equation. Accordingly, the fragments are also local energy minima of the ensuing energy function. Results: We show how the loop fragments cover practically all ultrahigh resolution crystallographic protein structures in Protein Data Bank (PDB), with a 0.2 Ångström root-mean-square (RMS) precision. We find that no more than 12 different loop fragments are needed, to describe around 38 % of ultrahigh resolution loops in PDB. But there is also a large number of loop fragments that are either unique, or very rare, and examples of unique fragments are found even in the structure of a myoglobin. Conclusions: Protein loops are built in a modular fashion. The loops are composed of fragments that can be modelled by the kink of the DNLS equation. The majority of loop fragments are also common, which are shared by many proteins. These common fragments are probably important for supporting the overall protein conformation. But there are also several fragments that are either unique to a given protein, or very rare. Such fragments are probably related to the function of the protein. Furthermore, we have found that the amino acid sequence does not determine the structure in a unique fashion. There are many examples of loop fragments with an identical amino acid sequence, but with a very different structure.
Categories: Journal Articles

The origin of β-strand bending in globular proteins

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 19:00
Background: Many β-strands are not flat but bend and/or twist. However, although almost all β-strands have a twist, not all have a bend, suggesting that the underlying force(s) driving β-strand bending is distinct from that for the twist. We, therefore, investigated the physical origin(s) of β-strand bends. Methods: We calculated rotation, twist and bend angles for a four-residue short frame. Fixed-length fragments consisting of six residues found in three consecutive short frames were used to evaluate the twist and bend angles of full-length β-strands. Results: We calculated and statistically analyzed the twist and bend angles of β-strands found in globular proteins with known three-dimensional structures. The results show that full-length β-strand bend angles are related to the nearby aromatic residue content, whereas local bend angles are related to the nearby aliphatic residue content. Furthermore, it appears that β-strands bend to maximize their hydrophobic contacts with an abutting hydrophobic surface or to form a hydrophobic side-chain cluster when an abutting hydrophobic surface is absent. Conclusions: We conclude that the dominant driving force for full-length β-strand bends is the hydrophobic interaction involving aromatic residues, whereas that for local β-strand bends is the hydrophobic interaction involving aliphatic residues.
Categories: Journal Articles

Three-dimensional structure model and predicted ATP interaction rewiring of a deviant RNA ligase 2

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 19:00
Background: RNA ligases 2 are scarce and scattered across the tree of life. Two members of this family are well studied: the mitochondrial RNA editing ligase from the parasitic trypanosomes (Kinetoplastea), a promising drug target, and bacteriophage T4 RNA ligase 2, a workhorse in molecular biology. Here we report the identification of a divergent RNA ligase 2 (DpRNL) from Diplonema papillatum (Diplonemea), a member of the kinetoplastids’ sister group. Methods: We identified DpRNL with methods based on sensitive hidden Markov Model. Then, using homology modeling and molecular dynamics simulations, we established a three dimensional structure model of DpRNL complexed with ATP and Mg2+. Results: The 3D model of Diplonema was compared with available crystal structures from Trypanosoma brucei, bacteriophage T4, and two archaeans. Interaction of DpRNL with ATP is predicted to involve double π-stacking, which has not been reported before in RNA ligases. This particular contact would shift the orientation of ATP and have considerable consequences on the interaction network of amino acids in the catalytic pocket. We postulate that certain canonical amino acids assume different functional roles in DpRNL compared to structurally homologous residues in other RNA ligases 2, a reassignment indicative of constructive neutral evolution. Finally, both structure comparison and phylogenetic analysis show that DpRNL is not specifically related to RNA ligases from trypanosomes, suggesting a unique adaptation of the latter for RNA editing, after the split of diplonemids and kinetoplastids. Conclusion: Homology modeling and molecular dynamics simulations strongly suggest that DpRNL is an RNA ligase 2. The predicted innovative reshaping of DpRNL’s catalytic pocket is worthwhile to be tested experimentally.
Categories: Journal Articles

An intact helical domain is required for G&#945; <sub>14</sub> to stimulate phospholipase C&#946;

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 07:00
Background: Stimulation of phospholipase Cβ (PLCβ) by the activated α-subunit of G q (Gα q ) constitutes a major signaling pathway for cellular regulation, and structural studies have recently revealed the molecular interactions between PLCβ and Gα q . Yet, most of the PLCβ-interacting residues identified on Gα q are not unique to members of the Gα q family. Molecular modeling predicts that the core PLCβ-interacting residues located on the switch regions of Gα q are similarly positioned in Gα z which does not stimulate PLCβ. Using wild-type and constitutively active chimeras constructed between Gα z and Gα 14 , a member of the Gα q family, we examined if the PLCβ-interacting residues identified in Gα q are indeed essential. Results: Four chimeras with the core PLCβ-interacting residues composed of Gα z sequences were capable of binding PLCβ2 and stimulating the formation of inositol trisphosphate. Surprisingly, all chimeras with a Gα z N-terminal half failed to functionally associate with PLCβ2, despite the fact that many of them contained the core PLCβ-interacting residues from Gα 14 . Further analyses revealed that the non-PLCβ2 interacting chimeras were capable of interacting with other effector molecules such as adenylyl cyclase and tetratricopeptide repeat 1, indicating that they could adopt a GTP-bound active conformation. Conclusion: Collectively, our study suggests that the previously identified PLCβ-interacting residues are insufficient to ensure productive interaction of Gα 14 with PLCβ, while an intact N-terminal half of Gα 14 is apparently required for PLCβ interaction.
Categories: Journal Articles

The crystal structure of JNK from <it>Drosophila melanogaster</it> reveals an evolutionarily conserved topology with that of mammalian JNK proteins

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 07:00
Background: The c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family, engage in diverse cellular responses to signals produced under normal development and stress conditions. In Drosophila, only one JNK member is present, whereas ten isoforms from three JNK genes (JNK1, 2, and 3) are present in mammalian cells. To date, several mammalian JNK structures have been determined, however, there has been no report of any insect JNK structure. Results: We report the first structure of JNK from Drosophila melanogaster (DJNK). The crystal structure of the unphosphorylated form of DJNK complexed with adenylyl imidodiphosphate (AMP-PNP) has been solved at 1.79 Å resolution. The fold and topology of DJNK are similar to those of mammalian JNK isoforms, demonstrating their evolutionarily conserved structures and functions. Structural comparisons of DJNK and the closely related mammalian JNKs also allow identification of putative catalytic residues, substrate-binding sites and conformational alterations upon docking interaction with Drosophila scaffold proteins. Conclusions: The DJNK structure reveals common features with those of the mammalian JNK isoforms, thereby allowing the mapping of putative catalytic and substrate binding sites. Additionally, structural changes upon peptide binding could be predicted based on the comparison with the closely-related JNK3 structure in complex with pepJIP1. This is the first structure of insect JNK reported to date, and will provide a platform for future mutational studies in Drosophila to ascertain the functional role of insect JNK.
Categories: Journal Articles

Free fatty acid receptors: structural models and elucidation of ligand binding interactions

Mon, 09/07/2015 - 07:00
Background: The free fatty acid receptors (FFAs), including FFA1 (orphan name: GPR40), FFA2 (GPR43) and FFA3 (GPR41) are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) involved in energy and metabolic homeostasis. Understanding the structural basis of ligand binding at FFAs is an essential step toward designing potent and selective small molecule modulators. Results: We analyse earlier homology models of FFAs in light of the newly published FFA1 crystal structure co-crystallized with TAK-875, an ago-allosteric ligand, focusing on the architecture of the extracellular binding cavity and agonist-receptor interactions. The previous low-resolution homology models of FFAs were helpful in highlighting the location of the ligand binding site and the key residues for ligand anchoring. However, homology models were not accurate in establishing the nature of all ligand-receptor contacts and the precise ligand-binding mode. From analysis of structural models and mutagenesis, it appears that the position of helices 3, 4 and 5 is crucial in ligand docking. The FFA1-based homology models of FFA2 and FFA3 were constructed and used to compare the FFA subtypes. From docking studies we propose an alternative binding mode for orthosteric agonists at FFA1 and FFA2, involving the interhelical space between helices 4 and 5. This binding mode can explain mutagenesis results for residues at positions 4.56 and 5.42. The novel FFAs structural models highlight higher aromaticity of the FFA2 binding cavity and higher hydrophilicity of the FFA3 binding cavity. The role of the residues at the second extracellular loop used in mutagenesis is reanalysed. The third positively-charged residue in the binding cavity of FFAs, located in helix 2, is identified and predicted to coordinate allosteric modulators. Conclusions: The novel structural models of FFAs provide information on specific modes of ligand binding at FFA subtypes and new suggestions for mutagenesis and ligand modification, guiding the development of novel orthosteric and allosteric chemical probes to validate the importance of FFAs in metabolic and inflammatory conditions. Using our FFA homology modelling experience, a strategy to model a GPCR, which is phylogenetically distant from GPCRs with the available crystal structures, is discussed.
Categories: Journal Articles

Structural characterization of the carbohydrate-binding module of NanA sialidase, a pneumococcal virulence factor

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 19:00
Background: Streptococcus pneumoniae Neuraminidase A (NanA) is a multi-domain protein anchored to the bacterial surface. Upstream of the catalytic domain of NanA is a domain that conforms to the sialic acid-recognising CBM40 family of the CAZY (carbohydrate-active enzymes) database. This domain has been identified to play a critical role in allowing the bacterium to promote adhesion and invasion of human brain microvascular endothelial cells, and hence may play a key role in promoting bacterial meningitis. In addition, the CBM40 domain has also been reported to activate host chemokines and neutrophil recruitment during infection. Results: Crystal structures of both apo- and holo- forms of the NanA CBM40 domain (residues 121 to 305), have been determined to 1.8 Å resolution. The domain shares the fold of other CBM40 domains that are associated with sialidases. When in complex with α2,3- or α2,6-sialyllactose, the domain is shown to interact only with the terminal sialic acid. Significantly, a deep acidic pocket adjacent to the sialic acid-binding site is identified, which is occupied by a lysine from a symmetry-related molecule in the crystal. This pocket is adjacent to a region that is predicted to be involved in protein-protein interactions. Conclusions: The structural data provide the details of linkage-independent sialyllactose binding by NanA CBM40 and reveal striking surface features that may hold the key to recognition of binding partners on the host cell surface. The structure also suggests that small molecules or sialic acid analogues could be developed to fill the acidic pocket and hence provide a new therapeutic avenue against meningitis caused by S. pneumoniae.
Categories: Journal Articles

New insights into the molecular mechanism of the Rab GTPase Sec4p activation

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 07:00
Background: Sec4p is a small monomeric Ras-related GTP-binding protein (23 kDa) that regulates polarized exocytosis in S. cerevisiae. In this study we examine the structural effects of a conserved serine residue in the P-loop corresponding to G12 in Ras. Results: We show that the Sec4p residue serine 29 forms a hydrogen bond with the nucleotide. Mutations of this residue have a different impact than equivalent mutations in Ras and can form stable associations with the exchange factor allowing us to elucidate the structure of a complex of Sec4p bound to the exchange factor Sec2p representing an early stage of the exchange reaction. Conclusions: Our structural investigation of the Sec4p-Sec2p complex reveals the role of the Sec2p coiled-coil domain in facilitating the fast kinetics of the exchange reaction. For Ras-family GTPases, single point mutations that impact the signaling state of the molecule have been well described however less structural information is available for equivalent mutations in the case of Rab proteins. Understanding the structural properties of mutants such as the one described here, provides useful insights into unique aspects of Rab GTPase function.
Categories: Journal Articles