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- Function of plant photosystem II subunits in photoprotection (2013)
- Plants absorb sunlight via photosynthetic pigments and convert light energy intochemical energy in the process of photosynthesis. These pigments are mainly bound to antenna protein complexes that funnel the excitation energy to the photosynthetic reaction centres. The peripheral antenna of plant photosystem II (PSII) consists of the major light-harvesting complex of PSII (LHC-II) and the minor LHCs CP29, CP26 and CP24. Light intensity can change frequently and plants need to adapt to high-light conditions in order to avoid photodamage. When more photons are absorbed than can be utilised by the photosynthetic machinery, excessive excitation energy is dissipated as heat by short-term adaptation processes collectively known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A decrease in PSII antenna chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence yield and a reduction in the average Chl fluorescence lifetime are associated with NPQ. The main component of NPQ is the so-called energy-dependent quenching (qE), and it is triggered by the rapid drop in thylakoid lumenal pH resulting from the plant’s photosynthetic activity. This process is thought to take place at the PSII antenna complexes, which therefore not only capture and transfer light energy but are also involved in balancing the energy flow. The decrease in lumenal pH acivates the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE), which converts the xanthophyll violaxanthin (Vio) into zeaxanthin (Zea) in the xanthophyll cycle. In addition, the PSII subunit PsbS was discovered to be essential for qE by screening qE-deficient Arabidopsis thaliana mutants. This membrane protein is considered a member of the LHC superfamily, which also includes LHC-II and the minor LHCs. Previous studies on PsbS isolated either from native source or refolded in vitro have produced inconsistent results on its pigment binding capacity. Interestingly, a pH-dependent change in the quaternary structure of PsbS under high light conditions has been reported. This observed dimer-tomonomer transition very likely follows the protonation of lumenal glutamates upon the drop in pH and is accompanied by a change in PSII supercomplex localisation. PsbS dimers are preferentially found in association with the PSII core, whereas PsbS monomers co-localise with LHC-II.Despite the identification of !pH, Zea and PsbS as key players in qE, both the nature of the quencher(s) as well as the underlying molecular mechanism leading to excess energy dissipation still remain unknown. Several models have been put forward to explain the reversible switch in the antenna from an energy-transmitting to a quenched state. Proposals include a simple pigment exchange of Vio for Zea, and aggregation or an internal conformational change of LHC-II. Charge transfer (CT)quenching in the minor LHCs or quenching by carotenoid dark state (Car S1)-Chl interactions have also been suggested. However, none of these qE models has so far been capable of accommodating all the physiological observations and available experimental data. Most importantly, the function of PsbS remains an enigma. A recent qE model suggested that monomerisation of PsbS enables the protein to transiently bind a carotenoid and form a quenching unit with a Chl of a PSII LHC. In view of the various proposed qE mechanisms, this thesis aimed at understanding the interplay of the different qE components and the contribution of the PSII subunits LHC-II, the minor LHCs and PsbS to qE. The initial approach was to investigate the properties of the PSII subunits in the most simple in vitro model system, namely in detergent solution. For this purpose, LHC-II was isolated either from native source or refolded from recombinantly produced protein. Investigation of the minor LHCs and PsbS required heterologous expression and refolding. In addition, experiments were performed on aggregated LHC-II. Aggregates of LHC-II have been used as a popular model system for qE because they exhibit highly quenched Chl fluorescence. At the final stage of this doctoral work, a more sophisticated model system to approximate the thylakoid membrane was developed by reconstitution of the PSII subunits LHC-II and PsbS into liposomes. This system not only allowed for investigation of these membrane proteins in their native environment, but also for mimicking the xanthophyll cycle by distribution of Zea within the membrane as well as !pH by outside buffer exchange. The role of Zea in qE was first investigated with detergent solubilised antenna proteins. The requirement of this xanthophyll for qE is well-known, but the specific contribution to the molecular quenching mechansim is unclear. Previous work had shown that replacement of Vio for Zea in LHC-II was not sufficient to induce Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II, as suggested by the so-called molecular gearshift mechanism. However, by means of selective two-photon excitation spectroscopy, an increase in electronic interactions between Car S1 and Chls was observed for LHC-II upon lowering the pH of the detergent buffer. Electronic Car S1-Chl coupling became even stronger when Zea-LHC-II was probed. The extent of Car S1-Chl coupling correlated directly with the extent of Chl fluorescence quenching, in a similar way as observed previously in live plants under high-light conditions. However, very similar results were obtained with LHC-II aggregates. This implied that the increase in electronic interactions and fluorescence quenching was independent of Zea and low pH. Further experiments on aggregates of LHC-II Chl mutants indicated that the targeted pigments were also not essential for the observed effects. It is proposed that the same molecular mechanism causes an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions and Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II at low pH as well as in aggregated LHC-II. Most likely, surface exposed pigments form random quenching centres in both cases. On the other hand, it was possible that Zea could act as a direct quencher of excess excitation energy in the minor LHCs. However, enrichment of refolded CP29, CP26 and CP24 with Zea did not lead to a change in the Chl excited state lifetime. Formation of a carotenoid radical cation, previously implied in CT quenching, was also not observed, although artificial generation of such a radical cation was principally possible as shown for CP29. During the course of this work, a study reporting the formation of Zea radical cations in minor LHCs was published. Therefore, Zea-enriched minor LHCs were again investigated on the experimental apparatus used in the reported study. Indeed, the presence of at least one carotenoid radical cation for each minor complex was detected. It is suggested that either the preparation method of incubating the refolded minor LHCs with Zea in contrast to refolding the complexes with only Zea and lutein causes the observed differences or that the observed spectral radical cation signatures are due to experimental artifacts. While the experiments with LHC-II and the minor LHCs gave useful insights into the putative qE mechanism, the quencher site and the mode of action of Zea could still not be unambiguously identified. Most importantly, these studies could not explain the function of the qE keyplayer PsbS. Therefore, the focus of the work was shifted to PsbS protein production, purification and characterisation. In view of inconsistent reports on the pigment binding capacity of this PSII subunit, refolding trials with and without photosynthetic pigments were conducted. The formation of a specific pigmentprotein complex typical for other LHCs was not observed and neither was the earlier reported “activation” of Zea for qE by binding to this protein. Nevertheless, PsbS refolded without pigments displayed secondary structure content in agreement with previous studies, indicating pigment-independent folding. Reconstitution of pigmentfree, refolded PsbS into liposomes confirmed that the protein is stable in the absence of pigments. Zea distributed in PsbS-containing liposomes also showed no spectral alteration that would indicate its “activation”. With the ability to reconstitute PsbS, it was then possible to proceed to modelling qE in a proteoliposome system. For this purpose, PsbS was co-reconstituted with LHC-II, which has been reported to interact with PsbS. One-photon excitation (OPE) and two-photon excitation (TPE) spectroscopy measurements were performed on LHC-II- and LHC-II/PsbS-containing liposomes. This enabled both quantification of Chl fluorescence quenching as well as determination of the extent of electronic Car S1-Chl interactions. The effect of Zea was investigated by incorporating it in the proteoliposome membrane. It was shown that Zea alone was not able to induce significant Chl fluorescence quenching when only LHC-II was present. However, when LHC-II and PsbS were co-reconstituted, pronounced Chl fluorescence quenching and an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions were observed and both effects were enhanced when Zea was present. Western blot analysis indicated the presence of a LHC-II/PsbS-heterodimer in these proteoliposomes. In addition to the OPE and TPE measurements, the average Chl fluorescence lifetime was determined in detergent-free buffer at neutral pH and directly after buffer exchange to low pH. No significant changes in the average lifetime were observed for LHC-II proteoliposomes when either Zea was present or after exchange for low pH buffer. This indicated that Zea alone cannot act as a direct quencher, which concurs with the OPE measurements. Moreover, the complex was also properly reconstituted as no aggregation or significant Chl fluorescence quenching were observed. The average lifetime was not significantly affected in LHC-II/PsbS-proteoliposomes, independent of Zea or pH. However, a shortlived component in the presence of a long-lived component was not resolvable with the time resolution of the fluorescence lifetime apparatus. Implications for qE model systems and the in vivo quenching mechanism are discussed based on the experiments in detergent solution, on LHC-II aggregates and with the proteoliposome model system.
- Structural rearrangements and subunit interactions in P2X receptors (2009)
- P2X receptors represent the third superfamily of ligand gated ion channels with ATP as their natural ligand. Most of the mammalian P2X receptors are non-selective cation channels, which upon activation, mediate membrane depolarization and have physiological roles ranging from fast excitatory synaptic transmission, modulation of pain-sensation, LTP to apoptosis etc. In spite of them being an attractive drug target, their potential as a drug target is limited by the lack of basic understanding of the structure-function relationship of these receptors. In my thesis, I have investigated the behavior of homomeric P2X receptor subunits with the help of photolabeling and fluorescence techniques coupled to electrophysiological measurements using Xenopus laevis oocytes heterologous expression system. Concurrent photolabeling by BzATP and current recordings from the same set of receptors in real time has revealed that the gating process in homomeric P2X receptors is contributed individually by each subunit in an additive manner. Our study for the first time describes the agonist potency of Alexa-ATP (a fluorescent ATP analog) on P2X1 receptors. The use of Alexa-ATP in our experiments elucidated that receptor subunits are not independent but interacting with each other in a cooperative manner. The type of cooperativity, however, depended on the type and concentrations of allosteric/competing ligands. Based on our results, in my thesis we propose an allosteric model for ligand-receptor interactions in P2X receptors. When simulated, the model could replicate our experimental findings thus, further validating our model. Further, correlation between occupancy of P2X1 receptors (determined using binding curve for Alexa-ATP) with the steady-state desensitization suggests that binding of three agonist molecules per receptor are required to desensitize P2X1 receptors. We further extended the approach of fluorescence with electrophysiological measurement to assign the role for different domains in P2X1 receptors with the help of environmental sensitive, cysteine reactive fluorophore (TMRM). Cysteine rich domain-1 of P2X1 receptors (C117-C165) was found to be involved in structural rearrangements after agonist and antagonist binding. In contrast to the present understanding, that the binding of an antagonist cannot induce desensitization in P2X1 receptors and the receptors need to open first before undergoing desensitization, we propose based on our results that a competitive antagonist can also induce desensitization in P2X1 receptors by bypassing the open state. We have attempted to answer few intriguing questions in the field of P2X receptor research and we think that our answers provide many avenues to the basic understanding of functioning of P2X receptors.
- Investigation of three accessory subunits of complex I from Yarrowia lipolytica (2010)
- The nicotinamide-adenine-dinucleotide (NADH):ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) from the strictly aerobic yeast Y. lipolytica contains at least 26 “accessory” subunits however the significance of most of them remains unknown. The aim of this study was to characterize the role of three accessory subunits of complex I, recently identified: two mitochondrial acyl carrier proteins, ACPM1 and ACPM2 and a sulfurtransferase (st1) subunit. ACPMs are small (approx. 10 kDa) acidic proteins that are homologous to the corresponding central components of prokaryotic fatty acid synthase complexes. Genomic deletions of the two genes ACPM1 and ACPM2 resulted in strains that were not viable or retained only trace amounts of assembled mitochondrial complex I, respectively, as assessed using two-dimensional blue native/sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (BN/SDS) PAGE. This suggested different functions for the two proteins that despite high similarity could not be complemented by the respective other homolog still expressed in the deletion strains. To test whether complex I was affected by deletion of the ACPM2 gene, its activities in mitochondrial membranes were measured. Consequently, specific inhibitor sensitive dNADH: decylubiquinone (DBQ) oxidoreductase activity was lost completely and a strong decrease in dNADH: hexa-ammine-ruthenium (HAR) oxidoreductase activity was measured. Remarkably, the same phenotypes were observed if just the conserved serine carrying the phosphopantethein moiety was exchanged with alanine. Although this suggested a functional link to the lipid metabolism of mitochondria, using HPLC chromatography no changes in the lipid composition of the organelles were found. Proteomic analysis revealed that both ACPMs were tightly bound to purified mitochondrial complex I. Western blot analysis revealed that the affinity tagged ACPM1 and ACPM2 proteins were exclusively detectable in mitochondrial membranes but not in the mitochondrial matrix as reported for other organisms. Hence it has been concluded that the ACPMs can serve all their possible functions in mitochondrial lipid metabolism and complex I assembly and stabilization as subunits bound to complex I. A protein exhibiting rhodanese (thiosulfate:cyanide sulfurtransferase) activity was found to be associated with homogenous preparation of complex I. From a rhodanese deletion strain, functional complex I that lacked the additional protein but was fully assembled and displayed no functional defects or changes in EPR signature was purified. In contrast to previous suggestions, this indicated that the sulfurtransferase associated with Y. lipolytica complex I is not required for assembly of its iron–sulfur clusters.
- Functional and structural characterization of Aquifex aeolicus sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase (2010)
- This work presents the first complete structure of the membrane protein sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase (SQR), obtained by X-ray crystallography. Its description is complemented by the results of biochemical and functional experiments. SQRs are ubiquitous flavoprotein disulfide reductases (FDRs), present in all domains of life, including in humans. Their physiological role extends from sulfide detoxification to sulfide-dependent respiration and photosynthesis (in archaea and bacteria), to heavy metal tolerance (in yeast) and possibly to sulfide signalling (in higher eukaryotes). Until now understanding the function of SQRs was difficult because of the poor level of sequence conservation in this enzyme family, the limited functional characterization available and the absence of any structural data. SQR was identified in the native membranes of the hyperthermophilic bacterium Aquifex aeolicus by peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) and by a spectrophotometric activity assay. The protein was solubilized in the detergent dodecyl-beta-D-maltoside (DDM) and purified to homogeneity in a functionally active state. It binds one FAD molecule per protein monomer and FAD is its only cofactor. Its structure was determined in the “as-purified”, substrate-bound and inhibitor-bound forms at resolutions of 2.3, 2.0 and 2.9 Å, respectively. It is composed of two Rossmann-fold domains and of one membrane-attachment region. Despite the overall monomeric architecture being similar to that of FDRs, the structure reveals properties that had not been observed in FDRs until now and that have strong implications for the SQR catalytic mechanism. Surprisingly, A. aeolicus SQR is trimeric in the crystal structure and in solution, as determined by density-matched analytical ultracentrifugation, cross-linking and single particle electron microscopy. The trimer creates an appropriate surface for binding lipids and thus ensures that SQR exclusively reduces hydrophobic quinones. SQR inserts to a depth of about 12 Å into the membrane as an integral monotopic membrane protein. The interaction is mediated by an amphipathic helix-turn-helix tripodal motif and two lipid clamps. A channel in the membrane-binding domain extends towards the si-side of FAD and represents the quinone-binding site. The quinone ring is sandwiched between the conserved amino acids Phe 385 and Ile 346 and is possibly protonated upon reduction via Glu 318, Lys 382 and/or neighboring solvent molecules. Sulfide polymerization occurs on the re-side of FAD, where the highly conserved Cys 156 and Cys 347 appear to be covalently bound to the putative product of the reaction, a polysulfur chain which takes the form of an S8 ring in some monomers. Finally, the structure shows that FAD is covalently connected to the protein in an unprecedented way, via a putative disulfide bridge between the 8-methyl group of the isoalloxazine moiety and Cys 124. The high resolution insight into the protein and all unexpected structural observations presented in this work suggest that the catalytic mechanism of SQRs is significantly different from that of FDRs. In agreement with the structural and functional data, two reaction schemes are proposed for A. aeolicus SQR. They both provide a detailed description of how sulfide and quinones reach and bind the active site, how electrons are transferred from sulfide to quinone via FAD and how the elongating polysulfur product is attached to the polypeptide and is finally released. The two hypotheses differ in defining the structure of the covalent protein-FAD intermediate that forms during the reaction cycle and whose identity still remains experimentally undetermined. Remarkably, the structure of the active site and the FAD-binding mode of A. aeolicus SQR are not conserved in another SQR structure which also became available recently, that of the archaeon Acidianus ambivalens. The variability in SQRs suggests that not all of these enzymes follow the same catalytic mechanism, despite having been considered homologous. Consequently, the currently available but contradictory sequence-based classifications of the SQR family were revised. A structure-based alignment calculated on the increasing number of available sequences allowed to define new SQR groups and their characteristic sequence fingerprints in agreement with the reported structural and functional data. In conclusion, the results obtained in this work offer for the first time a detailed look into the intriguing but complicated reactions catalysed by SQRs and provide a stimulus for further genetic, biochemical and structural investigation.
- Functional analysis of human transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) and its modulation by lipids (2011)
- The adaptive immune system of jawed vertebrates is based on recognition and elimination of cells that are either invaded by intracellular pathogens or malignantly transformed. One essential component of these processes is the cell surface presentation of antigenic peptides via major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules to cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs). Cells degrade defective ribosomal products and misfolded or unwanted proteins by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. The resulting degradation products are recognized and translocated by the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen, where they are loaded onto MHC I molecules. Assembled peptide-MHC complexes are then shuttled by the secretory pathway to the cell surface for antigen presentation to CTLs, leading in the case of viral infection or malignant transformation to lysis and apoptosis of the target cell. Due to the fact that the TAP complex represents a key control point within the antigen presentation pathway, several viruses have evolved sophisticated strategies to evade immune surveillance by interfering with TAP function. Detailed studies of the TAP mechanism or its viral inhibition have been severely impeded by difficulties in expressing sufficient amounts of functional heterodimeric TAP complex. Thus, the overexpression of TAP in the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris was established for functional analysis of this important ABC complex. Biomass production was scaled up by fermentation using classical batch and feed methods. Extensive screening of optimal solubilization and purification conditions allowed the isolation of the heterodimeric transport complex. Notably, only the very mild detergent digitonin preserved TAP function. Hereby, the optimal solubilization and purification strategy yielded in 30 mg TAP transporter per liter culture. Remarkably, the protein amount was 50-fold increased compared to previously described expression/purification in cultured insect cells. The high yield and quality of TAP produced in P. pastoris allowed an extensive analysis of substrate binding and transport kinetics of the transport complex in the membrane, its solubilized and purified state, as well as the reconstituted state. Thereby, a strong and direct effect of the lipid bilayer on ATP hydrolysis and peptide transport was discovered. These important results were extended further by successful functional reconstitution of the antigen translocation machinery in different lipid environments. For the first time, a stimulation of the transport activity by phosphatidylinositol (PI) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) was observed, whereas cholesterol was identified as an inhibitor of TAP activity. Purification of TAP and subsequent thin-layer chromatography (TLC)/liquid chromatography Fourier transform-mass spectrometry (LC FT-MS) fingerprinting of residual lipids exhibited specifically associated glycerophospholipids; mainly PC, PE, and PI species. Strikingly, these lipids not only represent the primary class of phospholipids of the ER but were also shown to be essential for functional reactivation of delipidated, and thus inactive, TAP. The results demonstrate that transport of antigenic peptides by the ABC transporter TAP strictly requires specific glycerophospholipids. In addition to the biochemical characterization of heterologous produced TAP, the soluble domain of the viral inhibitor US6 from human cytomegalovirus was expressed in E. coli. Optimization of the purification and refolding strategy yielded in functional protein, with a 35-fold increased protein amount compared to previous purification procedures. Protein activity was analyzed by specific inhibition of ATP binding to TAP. Furthermore, high protein yields allowed detailed investigation of TAP-dependent spatial and mechanistic separation of MHC I restricted cross-presentation in professional antigen presenting cells (pAPC).
- Crystallization and structural characterization of protein complexes involved in the energy metabolism of Yarrowia lipolytica (2009)
- 1. Fab co-complexes of proton pumping NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) Fab fragments suitable for co-crystallization with complex I were generated using an immobilized papainbased protocol. The binding of the antibody fragments to complex I was verified using Surface Plasmon Resonance and size exclusion chromatography. The binding constants of the antibodies and their respective Fab fragments were found to be in the nanomolar range. This work presents the first report on successful crystallization of complex I (proton pumping NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase) from Yarrowia lipolytica with proteolytic Fab fragments. The quality of the crystals was significantly improved when compared to the initial experiments and the best crystals diffracted X-rays to a resolution of ~7 Å. The activity of complex I remained uninfluenced by antibody fragment binding. The initial diffraction data suggest that the complex I/Fab co-complex crystals represent a space group different to the one observed for the native protein. Ongoing experiments are aimed at further enhancements of the diffraction quality of the crystals. Providing a different space group the CI/Fab co-complexes may become a very useful approach for structure determination of the enzyme. Moreover, the bound Fab offers an additional possibility to generate phase information. The antibody-mediated crystallization represents a valuable tool in structural characterization of the NADH:oxidoreductase subcomplexes or even single subunits. 2. UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase from Yarrowia lipolytica displays affinity towards Ni2+ NTA and was first detected in a contaminated sample of complex I. Following, separation from complex I, Ugp1p was purified using anion exchange chromatography. Sequence similarity studies revealed high identity to other known pyrophosphorylases. As indicated by laser-based mass spectrometry method (LILBID) Ugp1p from Y. lipolytica builds octamers similarly to the enzyme from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The initial crystals grew as thin needles favorably in sitting drop setups. The size of the crystals was increased by employment of a micro batch technique. The improved crystals diffracted X-rays to a resolution of 3.2 Å at the synchrotron beamline. Structural characterization is under way using a molecular replacement approach based on the published structure of baker’s yeast UGPase.
- Biochemical, structural and functional characterization of diheme-containing succinate:quinone reductase (SQR) from Bacillus licheniformis (2010)
- Succinate:quinone oxidoreductases (SQORs) are integral membrane protein complexes, which couple the two-electron oxidation of succinate to fumarate (succinate → fumarate + 2H+ + 2e-) to the two-electron reduction of quinone to quinol (quinone + 2H+ + 2e- → quinol) as well as catalyzing the opposite reaction, the reduction of fumarate by quinol. In mitochondria and some aerobic bacteria, succinate:ubiquinone reductase, also known as complex II of the aerobic respiratory chain or as succinate dehydrogenase from the tricarboxylic acid (TCA or Krebs) cycle, catalyzes the oxidation of succinate by ubiquinone, which is mildly exergonic under standart conditions and not directly associated with energy storage in the form of a transmembrane electrochemical proton potential (Δp). Gram-positive bacteria do not contain ubiquinone but rather menaquinone, a quinone with significantly lower oxidation-reduction (“redox”) midpoint potential. In these cases, the catalyzed oxidation of succinate by quinone is endergonic under standard conditions. Consequently, these bacteria face a thermodynamic problem in supporting the catalysis of this reaction in vivo. Based on experimental evidence obtained on whole cells and purified membranes, it had previously been proposed that the SQR from Gram-positive bacteria supports this reaction at the expense of the protonmotive force, Δp. Nonetheless, it has been argued that the observed Δp dependence is not associated specifically with the activity of SQR because the occurrence of artifacts in experiments with bacterial membranes and whole cells can not be fully excluded. Clearly, definitive insight into the mechanism of catalysis of this intriguing reaction required a corresponding functional characterization of an isolated, membranebound SQR from a Gram-positive bacterium. The first aim of the present work addresses the question if the general feasibility of the energetically uphill electron transfer from succinate to menaquinone is associated specifically to a single enzyme complex, the SQR. The prerequisite to achieve this goal was stable preparation of this enzyme.
- Structural and functional studies of the cytoplasmic portion of the hybrid sensor like-kinase RcsD within the Rcs phosphorelay of Escherichia coli (2010)
- Employing NMR spectroscopy, it is not only possible to calculate the three dimensional structures of single proteins, but also to study dynamics and conformational changes of protein-complexes. In fact that is an important aspect, since the protein function depends on dynamics and interactions with other molecules. Therefore the study of protein-protein interactions is of highest importance for a better understanding of biological processes. Based on NMR methods, in this thesis we were able to determine protein-protein interactions within the enterobacterial Rcs signalling complex which is regulated via a phosphorelay. Originally identified as regulator of capsule synthesis, the Rcs phosphorelay is now considered to be implicated in stress response caused by disturbances in the peptidoglycan layer. Beyond that the Rcs system is involved in multiplex transcriptional networks including cell division, motility, biofilm formation and virulence. Because of such global nature and its extraordinary structural organisation involving membrane integrated sensor proteins (RcsC, RcsD), coactivators (RcsF, RcsA) and a transcription factor (RcsB), the Rcs system is one of the most remarkable phosphorelays in the family of enterobacteriacaea. During the complex phosphotransfer the histidine phosphotransferase (HPt) domain of the intermediary RcsD protein mediates the phosphotransfer between RcsC and RcsB, and probably modulates the phosphorylation state of the response regulator RcsB. Therefore the present work has been focused on the interface between RcsD and RcsB in more detail. In the first part of the thesis a new domain within the RcsD protein has been identified and structurally analysed by liquid NMR spectroscopy. RcsD is an inner membrane bound hybrid sensor like-kinase composed of a periplasmic sensor domain and a cytoplasmic portion. The cytoplasmic part contains the histidine like-kinase (HK) domain and the histidine phosphotransferase (HPt) domain. By analysis of the secondary structure in more detail, it was shown here that the two domains are intermitted by an additional 13.3 kDa domain. Corresponding to the position of the ABL (α−β−loop) domain of RcsC, located C-terminal to the RcsC-HK domain, the new identified domain was named RcsD-ABL. The central structural element of RcsD-ABL is a β-sheet composed of six strands with a β1−β2−β3−β4−β6−β5 topology and surrounded by two α-helices α1 and α2. In the second part of the thesis, RcsD-ABL is identified as a binding domain for the response regulator RcsB by NMR titration experiments. Such a binding domain for a response regulator has so far only been described for the histidine kinase CheA. In reportergene assays with β-galactosidase and ONPG as substrate it was shown that overexpression of RcsD-ABL in high amounts inhibited binding of RcsB to its target promoter. The β-galactosidase activity was reduced by 80 % with respect to cells carrying no plasmid encoding RcsD-ABL. The mapping of the binding interface was successfully achieved by chemical shift perturbations, a fast mapping protocol and selective labelling. It was shown that the interaction between RcsD-ABL and RcsB takes place via a binding interface comprising mainly the two α-helices of RcsD-ABL and the α-helices α7, α8 and α10 in the effector domain of RcsB. In the third part of the thesis, the interaction of RcsB with RcsD-ABL was related to that with RcsD-HPt. Using NMR titration experiments and ITC measurements, a comparison of the binding constants (Kd) of RcsB interacting either with the isolated RcsD-ABL (2 PM) or the isolated RcsDHPt domain (40 PM) revealed a higher affinity of RcsD-ABL to RcsB. A conjugate of RcsD-ABL-HPt interacting with RcsB decreased the Kd in the one-site fitting mode to 10 PM. However, the two-site fitting mode applied for RcsD-ABL-HPt/RcsB interaction resulted in a Kd (RcsD-ABL) of 2 PM and a Kd (RcsD-HPt) of 8 PM, indicating that RcsD-ABL enhances the binding of RcsD-HPt to RcsB. In the last part of the thesis, it was partly possible together with the data obtained from NMR titration experiments, PRE measurements and a HADDOCK protocol to develop a geometrical model for the interaction of RcsD with RcsB. In this model the receiver domain of RcsB interacts with the RcsD-HPt domain and the RcsB effector domain interacts with the RcsD-ABL domain. These results lead to surprising insights on the regulation of phosphorelays, since normally the effector domain binds to DNA. Here the effector domain is recognized by the newly identified RcsD-ABL domain. Prospectively, further investigations of phosphorylation affects and mutational studies will be of great interest.
- Substrate binding does not only mean catalysis: internal regulation in the cytochrome bc1 complex from Paracoccus denitrificans (2011)
- The ubiquinol:cytochrome c oxidoreductase is a key component of several aerobic respiratory chains in different organisms. It is an integral membrane protein complex, made up of three catalytic subunits (cytochrome b, cytochrome c1 and Rieske iron sulphur protein) and up to eight additional subunits in mitochondria. The complex oxidizes one quinol molecules and reduces two cytochrome c during the Q cycle, originally described by Peter Mitchell. Electrons are split between the low and the high potential chain and protons are released on the positive side of the membrane, increasing the protonmotive force needed by the ATP-synthase for energy transduction. The cytochrome bc1 complex from P. denitrificans is a perfect model for structural and functional studies. Bacteria are easy to grow and the genetic material is readily accessible for genetic manipulation. Moreover, the P. denitrificans aerobic respiratory chain is very close to the mitochondrial one: the complexes involved in electron transfer resemble the ones found in mitochondria, but lack most of the additional subunits. As a unique feature, P. denitrificans has a strongly acidic domain at the N-terminal region of the cytochrome c1, a sequence of 150 aminoacids which does not correlate with any known protein. An analogous composition can be found in the eukaryotic cytochrome bc1 complex as a part of an accessory subunit, proposed to be involved in facilitating electron transfer between the complex and the electron acceptor cytochrome c. In order to study the function of this domain in the P. denitrificans cytochrome bc1 complex, a deletion mutant has been previously cloned and modified with an affinity tag as a C-terminal extension of cytochrome b. The complex is purified by affinity chromatography and characterized by steady-state kinetics using not only horse heart cytochrome c but also the endogenous electron acceptor, the membrane bound cytochrome c552, employed here as a soluble fragment. Steady–state kinetics indicate that the deletion of the long acidic domain had effects neither on the turnover rate nor on the apparent affinity for the substrate. To understand wether the deletion affects the reaction between the cytochrome bc1 complex and the substrate, laser flash photolysis experiments are performed, showing that the interaction observed was not changed in the complex missing the acidic domain. The results presented in this work confirm the ones previously obtained by Julia Janzon using soluble fragments of the same interaction partners. The deletion, however, affected the oligomerization state of the complex, as shown by LILBID (Laser Induced Liquid Bead Ion Desorption) analysis. The wild type complex has a tetrameric structure, better described as a “dimer of dimers”. The deletion of the acidic domain on the cytochrome c1 results in the separation of the two dimers, yielding the canonical dimer. Therefore, the complex deleted in the acidic domain is used for cloning and expression of a heterodimeric complex, containing an inactivating mutation in the quinol oxidation site in only one monomer, thus allowing a selective switch-off for half the complex. Such a complex is needed for the verification of an internal regulation mechanism, the half-of-the-sites reactivity. According to it, the dimeric structure of the cytochrome bc1 complex has functional implications, since the two monomers can communicate and work in a coordinated manner. This approach confirms that substrate oxidation does effectively take place only in one of the two monomers constituting the dimer, and that the binding of substrate at the Qo and Qi site regulates the switch between active and inactive monomer. Moreover, this mechanism works also as an effective protection against the reaction of quinone intermediates with oxygen and the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), responsable for cellular aging. The motion of the ISP head domain is also addressed in this work; in particular the mechanism which regulates the movements towards the cytochrome c1 and the electron bifurcation at the quinol oxidation site. Laser flash kinetics in presence of several inhibitors and the substrate allow studying the response of the ISP to the binding of different species at the quinol oxidation site. The binding of ligand at the Qo site in the complex triggers the conformational switch in the ISP head domain, supporting the mechanism proposed in the literature according to which the Qo site is able to “sense” the presence of substrate and transfer the information to the ISP, regulating its mobility. The internal electron pathway between the ISP and the cytochrome c1 has been analyzed also by stopped-flow kinetics, in presence and absence of inhibitors. The results indicate that two kinetic phases describe the reduction of cytochrome c1 by the ISP, and a model for the simulation of the data is proposed.
- Expression and characterization of P-type ATPases for structural studies (2007)
- Two types of proteins transport ions across the membrane – ion channels and ion pumps. Ion pumps transport ions against their electrochemical gradient by co-transporting another ion or a substrate molecule through a concentration gradient or by coupling this process to an energy source like ATP. Those that couple ATP hydrolysis to ion transport are called ion motive ATPases and can be classified as ‘V’, ‘F’ and ‘P’ types. In this thesis, two sub-classes of P-type ATPases, PIIIA and PIB were studied. Attempts were made to over-express and crystallize the plant proton pump AHA2 (a PIIIA-ATPase). Also, the two putative copper transporting ATPases, CtrA3 (CopB-like) and CtrA2 (CopA-like) from Aquifex aeolicus (both PIB pumps) were over-expressed in E. coli and characterized. PIIIA-type pumps transport protons across the membrane and are found exclusively in plants and fungi, and probably some archaea. One of the most characterized proton pump biochemically is the A. thaliana proton pump AHA2. An 8Å projection map of this enzyme is already available (Jahn 2001). PIBATPases, also called CPX type pumps transport heavy metal ions such as Cu+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Pb2+, Cd2+, Co2+ across biological membranes and play an important role in homeostasis and biotolerance of these metals. CopA and CopB are two such proteins that transport copper across cell membrane found in many prokaryotes. CopB-like proteins are found almost exclusively in bacteria, with CPH sequence motif, while CopA-like proteins have CPC sequence motif, also found in eukaryotic copper transporters including human ATP7A and ATP7B. CopB extrudes Cu2+ across the membrane. CopA is activated by and transports Cu+ but the direction of transport is debated. Attempts were made to over-express the plant proton pump AHA2 in yeast Pichia pastoris. However, the yeast expressed only a truncated protein, which could not be used for further studies. It can be concluded that P. pastoris strain SMD1163 is not a good host for expression of AHA2. Focus was then shifted to AHA2 that has been over-expressed and purified from S. cerevisiae strain RS72. Growth and purification protocols had to be changed from published methods because of laboratory constraints and this probably had an effect on the protein produced. The protein purified from S. cerevisiae could not be crystallized reproducibly for structural studies by electron microscopy. CtrA3 was expressed in E. coli and purified using Ni2+-NTA matrix. Like CopB of A. fulgidus (Mana Capelli 2003), it was active only in the presence of Cu2+ and to some extent in Ag+. The protein was maximally active at 75°C, at pH 7 and in presence of cysteine. Lipids were essential for the activity of CtrA3. However, when the protein was purified in Cymal-6, CtrA3 could not hydrolyze ATP, even when lipids were added to the reaction mixture. For reconstitution of CtrA3 into liposomes for 2D crystallization, several lipids were tested. To screen the lipids compatible for protein incorporation, CtrA3 was dialyzed with different lipids at a high lipid-to-protein ratio of 10:1 and centrifuged by sucrose density gradient. Protein incorporated in lipids localized with liposome fraction in the gradient. Most of the CtrA3 was incorporated into DPPC with no aggregation. This lipid was used for reconstitution of CtrA3 at low LPRs, and at an LPR of 0.3-0.5, the protein formed 2D crystals. A NaCl concentration of 50mM was necessary for the formation of crystals. However, salt removal by dialysis prior to harvesting was essential for obtaining wellordered lattices of CtrA3. Addition of preservatives like trehalose and tannin or direct plunging in liquid ethane for cryo-microscopy destroyed the crystal lattice. Similar to CtrA3, the gene responsible for expression of CtrA2 was amplified from genomic DNA of A. aeolicus and expressed in E. coli and purified by Ni2+-NTA. Functional characterization of CtrA2 was done by analyzing ATP hydrolysis activity of the enzyme. Similar to CopA of A. fulgidus (Mandal 2002), CtrA2 was activated in the presence of Ag+ and to some extent, Cu+. It is possible that both the copper ATPases of A. aeolicus have different ion selectivity- CtrA3, specific for Cu2+ and CtrA2, specific for Cu+. Maximal activity of CtrA2 was also at 75°C. Cysteine was essential for activity of CtrA2, but the protein was not dependent on addition of lipids for activation. Reconstitution of CtrA2 was done similar to CtrA3 for screening of lipids for 2D crystallization. Of the lipids tested, DOPC reconstituted the protein best. However, screening at low LPRs did not yield any crystals. Even though both CtrA3 and CtrA2 are similar heavy metal transporting Ptype ATPases from the same organism and have 36% identity, they behaved completely different in their expression levels in E. coli, purification profiles, activity and reconstitution in lipids.