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- Three dimensional structure of the light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b protein complex from plant chloroplasts (2002)
- The light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b protein complex (LHC-II) is the major collector of solar energy in all plants and it binds about half of the chlorophyll in green plants. LHCII is a trimer in the photosynthetic membrane; each monomer consists of 232 amino acids, binds and orients a minimum of 12 chlorophyll molecules and three caroteinoids (two luteins and one neoxanthin) for light-harvesting and energy transfer. Although, the structure of LHC-II has been determined at 3.4 Å resolution by electron microscopy of two-dimensional crystals (Kühlbrandt et al., 1994), this is not sufficient to allow a complete understanding of the mechanism of energy transfer from LHC-II to the reaction centre, since the effective resolution in the z dimension is 4.9 Å. In fact, the chemical difference between Chl a and Chl b, which has a formyl group instead of the methyl group at the 7-position in the chlorin ring, is too small to be detected at this level of resolution. In addition, the orientation of the chlorophyll tetrapyrroles have not been determined unambiguously. This information is essential for a detailed understanding of the energy transfer within the complex and to the reaction centres of photosystem II and I (PSII and PSI). X-ray crystallography of three dimensional (3D) crystals may yield a more complete structure at high resolution. 3D crystals have been grown from LHC-II isolated from pea leaves using a standard purification procedure (Burke et al., 1978). The thylakoid membranes are solubilised in Triton X-100 and further purified by sucrose gradient ultra centrifugation. The LHC-II fraction is salt precipitated and pellets resuspended at the chlorophyll a/b ratio 2.8 mg/ml in 0.9 % Nonyl-glucoside. Crystals are currently obtained by vapour diffusion in hanging drops. These crystals are thin hexagonal plates, have a fairly large unit cell and diffract quite weakly. The high level of the background is due both to the detergent, necessary for protein solubilisation, and lipids, required for the trimer and crystals formation. However, three data sets, each from one single crystal have been collected up to 3.2 Å resolution over a rotation range of 135°. The crystals were exposed to a very highly collimated and brilliant beam (ID-14 EH1 at ESRF, Grenoble, France) and were kept under a stream of cold nitrogen to prevent radiation damage. Data were successfully integrated using the program XDS by Kabsch (1993). The crystals were found to belong to the space group P6 22 3 and have unit cell dimensions of a=128.45, b=128.45, c=135.32, a= ß=90º, ?=120. The solution of the phase problem was tackled by molecular replacement using, as a search model, the LHC-II structure solved by electron cryo-microscopy studies of twodimensional crystals (Kühlbrandt et al. 1994). Three different programs were tested: the most used AMoRe (Navaza et al., 1994) and the brute force based program Brute (Fujinaga
- Production of recombinant human endothelin B receptor in different hosts and its subsequent solubilization and purification (2003)
- The endothelin B receptor belongs to the rhodopsin-like G-protein coupled receptors family. It plays an important role in vasodilatation and is found in the membranes of the endothelial cells enveloping blood vessels. During the course of this work, the production of recombinant human ETB receptor in yeast, insect and mammalian cells was evaluated. A number of different receptor constructs for production in the yeast P. pastoris was prepared. Various affinity tags were appended to the receptor N-and C-termini to enable receptor detection and purification. The clone pPIC9KFlagHisETBBio, with an expression level of 60 pmol/mg, yielded the highest amount of active receptor (1.2 mg of receptor per liter of shaking culture). The expression level of the same clone in fermentor culture was 17 pmol/mg, and from a 10L fermentor it was possible to obtain 3 kg of cells that contained 20-39 mg of the receptor. For receptor production in insect cells, Sf9 (S. frugiperda) suspension cells were infected with the recombinant baculovirus pVlMelFlagHisETBBio. The peak of receptor production was reached at 66 h post infection, and radioligand binding assays on insect cell membranes showed 30 pmoL of active receptor /mg of membrane protein. Subsequently, the efficiency of different detergents in solubilizing the active receptor was evaluated. N-dodecyl-beta-D-maltoside (LM), lauryl-sucrose and digitonine/cholate performed best, and LM was chosen for further work. The ETB receptor was produced in mammalian cells using the Semliki Forest Virus expression system. Radioligand binding assays on membranes from CHO cells infected with the recombinant virus pSFV3CAPETBHis showed 7 pmol of active receptor /mg of membrane protein. Since the receptor yield from mammalian cells was much lower than in yeast and insect cells, this system was not used for further large-scale receptor production. After production in yeast and insect cells, the ETB receptor was saturated with its ligand, endothelin-1, in order to stabilize its native form. The receptor was subsequently solubilized with n-dodecyl-beta-D-maltoside and subjected to purification on various affinity matrices. Two-step affinity purification via Ni2+-NTA and monomeric avidin proved the most efficient way to purify milligram amounts of the receptor. The purity of the receptor preparation after this procedure was over 95%, as judged from silver stained gels. However, the tendency of the ETB receptor produced in yeast to form aggregates was a constant problem. Attempts were made to stabilize the active, monomeric form of the receptor by testing a variety of different buffer conditions, but further efforts in this direction will be necessary in order to solve the aggregation problem. In contrast to preparations from yeast, the purification of the ETB receptor produced in insect cells yielded homogeneous receptor preparations, as shown by gel filtration analysis. This work has demonstrated that the amounts of receptor expressed in yeast and insect cells and the final yield of receptor, isolated by purification, represent a good basis for beginning 3D and continuing 2D crystallization trials.
- Regulation of IL-18 binding protein by IFN-gamma (2003)
- In this study we investigated the regulation of IL-18BPa by IFN-y in the context of colon cancer and human autoimmune diseases. IL-18BPa is a naturally occuring inhibitor that counteracts IL-18 bioactivity. By enhancing IFN-y production IL-18 has been introduced as pivotal mediator of TH1 immune responses. Indeed, many IL-18 effects are mediated by IFN-y. IL-18 bioactivity is connected with the pathogenesis of different inflammatory diseases, for instance, septic shock, colitis, Crohn's disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and organ transplant rejection. In addition, IL-18 has tumor-suppressive properties. IFN-y induced IL-18BPa expression was shown on protein and mRNA level in different colon carcinoma cell lines, organ cultures of colonic intestinal biopsy specimens, HaCaT keratinocytes as well as rheumatoid arthritis fibroblastlike synoviocytes (RA-FLS). The IFN-y-mediated induction of IL-18BPa appears to be a more general phenomenom. The capability of IFN-y to induce IL-18BPa also has been confirmed on the promoter level by performing luciferase reporter gene studies with two IL- 18BP promoter fragments. A GAS-site proximal to the transcription start site has been identified to be relevant for IFN-y-mediated induction of these two IL18BP promoter fragments. The induction of IL-18BPa is most likely mediated by STAT-1 in DLD-1 colon carcinoma cells. Sodium butyrate inhibited IFN-y-induced IL-18BPa expression in these cells. On the basis of our observations, we postulate a negative feedback mechanism, by which IFN-y-dependent and -independent IL-18 action might be counterregulated. In this model sodium butyrate is an additional player, that may interrupt the postulated negative feedback loop. A coculture system was performed to simulate an inflammatory TH1 response. This model which is more close to the in vivo situation, confirmed upregulation of IL-18BPa by endogenously produced IFN-y. The role of IL-18BPa is manifold and depends on IL-18 function in each particular case. In autoimmune diseases, for instance, which are often characterized by a TH1 polarized immune response, IL-18BPa might counterregulate IL-18 and/or IL-18-induced IFN-y bioactivity. Important examples are Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In CD therapeutic use of IL-18BPa may therefore restore a hypothetically disturbed IL-18/IL-18BP balance. Concerning RA, IL-18BPa expression might contribute to protective functions of IFN-y, observed in different murine models for arthritis and in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Moreover, IL-18BPa might inhibit IL-18-mediated induction of subsequent cardinal inflammatory cytokines responsible for the pathogenesis of these diseases. Indeed, the pharmaceutical industry successfully used IL-18BP as therapeutic agent in a murine model of RA and in phase I clinical trials. On the contrary, in the context of carcinogenesis IFN-y- mediated IL-18BPa expression might be disadvantageous. By counterregulating the IL-18 arm of immune defenses against tumors, IL-18BP may have the potential to promote carcinogenesis. Our hypothesis is underlined by the observation that sodium butyrate, known to be protective in colon cancer, inhibited IFN-y-induced IL-18BPa expression. In parallel, IL-18-induced IFN-y is also responsible for iNOS induction. iNOS-derived NO provides a second possible way for inhibition of IFN-y-dependent and -independent tumor suppressive effects of IL-18. Finally, IFN-y-induced IL-18BPa expression was confirmed on the promoter level. This induction on the promoter level was associated with STAT-1 binding to the GAS element proximal to the start of transcription. It is tempting to speculate that blockage of the cytokine cascade upstream of IL-1 and TNF- a on the level of IL-18 may be of therapeutic benefit. Our data reflect the relationship between inflammation and cancer, in that inflammatory cells and cytokines found in tumors are likely to contribute to tumor growth, progression, and immunosuppression than they are to mount an effective host antitumour response.
- Structure-function relationships in the cytochrome bc1 complex from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (2004)
- The cytochrome bc1 complex is a cornerstone in bioenergetic electron transfer chains, where it carries out tasks as diverse as respiration, photosynthesis, and nitrogen fixation. This homodimeric multisubunit membrane protein has been studied extensively for several decades and the enzyme mechanism is described with the modified protonmotive Q cycle. Still, the molecular and kinetic description of the catalytic cycle is not complete and questions remain regarding the bifurcation of electron transfer at the quinol oxidation (Qo) site, substrate occupancy, pathways of proton conduction, and the nature of the Rieske protein domain movement. We used competitive inhibitors to study the molecular architecture at the Qo site with X-ray crystallography. The structure of the enzyme with the substrate analog 5-n-heptyl-6-hydroxy-4,7-dioxobenzothiazole (HHDBT) bound at the Qo site was determined at 2.5 Å resolution. Spectroscopic studies showed that HHDBT is negatively charged when bound at the active site. Mechanistic interpretations from inhibitor binding are in line with single occupancy model for quinol oxidation and structural analysis supports the proposed proton transfer pathway. For functional insight into the enzyme mechanism, redox-sensitive protonation changes were studied by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The protein purification procedure was optimized for less delipidation and the isolated enzyme was more active. Furthermore, two new phospholipids were identified in the X-ray structures, including a cardiolipin. Strikingly, conserved lipid binding cavities were observed in structural comparison with homologous enzymes. The functional role of tightly bound phospholipids will be discussed. Finally, the Qo site is a target for various compounds of agricultural and pharmaceutical importance. Importantly, the X-ray structures permit detailed analysis of the molecular reasons for acquired resistance to and treatment failure of Qo site inhibitors, such as atovaquone, that is used to treat malaria and pneumonia, as discussed herein.
- Wechselwirkung des Cytochrom-bc1-Komplexes aus Saccharomyces cerevisiae mit seinen Substraten sowie mit der Cytochrom-c-Oxidase (2004)
- The cytochrome bc1 complex or ubiquinol:cytochrome c oxidoreductase (QCR) catalyses electron transfer from ubiquinol to cytochrome c in respiration and photosynthesis coupled to a vectorial proton transport across the membrane, in which the enzyme resides. In both bacteria and eukaryotic organisms, QCR participates in supramolecular assembly of membrane proteins that comprise the respiratory or photosynthetic chain. In the present work, proton transfer pathways, substrate binding and the supramolecular assembly of the respiratory chain in yeast were probed by structure-based site-directed mutagenesis and characterization of the variants. Both active sites centre P, the place of quinol oxidation, and centre N, where quinone reduction takes place, lack direct access to the bulk solvent necessary for proton release and uptake. Based on the X-ray structure, proton transfer pathways were postulated. Analysis at centre P showed, that E272 and Y132 of cytochrome b are important for QCR catalysis as indicated by increased superoxide production and lowered Cyc1p reductase activity in these variants. Pre-steady state heme reduction kinetics in combination with stigmatellin resistance indicated that charge and length of the side chain at position 272 are crucial for efficient docking of the ISP to form the enzyme substrate complex and for electron bifurcation at centre P. Variants of Y312 and F129, both residues of cytochrome b, showed an increased Km indicating participation of these residues in coordination of ubiquinol or the possible intermediate semiquinone anion radical. F129 proved to be crucial for a functional Q-cycle as indicated by respiratory negative growth phenotype and a lowered H+/e- stoichiometry of F129 variants. At centre N, the postulated CL/K and E/R proton transfer pathways are located at opposite sites of the bound ubiquinone. Variants in the surface residues R218 (cytochrome b) and E52 (Qcr7) of the E/R pathway and E82 (Qcr7) of the CL/K pathway showed instability upon purification indicating an important role of these residues for QCR integrity. The slowed down centre N reduction kinetics in H85 (CL/K), R218 and N208 (both E/R) variant was attributed to a destabilised semiquinone anion consistent with the observed decreased sensitivity towards the site-specific inhibitor antimycin and an increased Km. Variants of residues of both pathway, E82Q and R218M, exhibited a decreased H+/e- stoichiometry indicating a crucial role of both residue for maintaining a working Q-cycle and supporting the proposed protonation of the substrate via the Cl/K and the E/R pathway. Long-range interaction between centre N and centre P were observed by altered reduction kinetics of the high potential chain and increased superoxide production in the centre N variants. The role of the cation-pi-interaction between F230 of Cyt1p and R19 of cytochrome c in binding of the redox carrier to QCR was analysed. In F230L hydrophobic interaction were partially lost as was deduced from the ionic strength dependence of Cyc1p reductase activity and Cycp1 binding, as detected by ionic strength sensitive Kd and Km for Cyc1p. The decreased enzymatic rate of F230W could be explained by a disturbed binding of Cyc1p to the variant enzyme. F230 may influence the heme mid point potential and thereby the electron transfer rate to Cyc1p. Reduction of Cobp via both centre P and centre N was disturbed suggesting an interaction between high and low potential chain. Supramolecular association between QCR and cytochrome c oxidase (COX) in yeast mitochondria was probed by affinity chromatography of a his-tagged QCR in the presence of the mild detergent digitonin. In comparison to purification with laurylmaltoside, the presence of both QCR and COX subunits was detected in the elution fractions by SDS-PAGE, Cyc1p reductase and TMPD oxidase activity assays and immunoblot analysis. The CL-dependent formation of the supercomplex between QCR and COX was analysed by replacement variants in the CL-binding site of QCR in CL containing and CL free environment. With an increasing number of replacements of the three lysines the CL-binding pocket supercomplex formation was not abolished, when CL is present as shown by BN-PAGE analysis. This was supported by the synergetic decrease in enzyme activity for both enzymes upon increased number of replacements. In the CL-free environment, no supracomplex formation was observed for a wildtype CL binding site. By replacements of two lysines in the CL-binding pocket, supercomplex formation could be recovered as revealed by BN-PAGE. This indicates, that CL may serve as a charge neutralizer for the lysines near the presumed interaction domain between complex III and complex IV. The obtained results for centre P provide new information of residues critical for stabilisation of ubiquinol and controlling electron short circuit reactions. The observations for centre N variants clearly support the proposed two proton transfer pathways and the role of the bound phospholipids in centre N kinetics. Variants in the Cyc1p binding site suggest a role for F230 both in Cyc1p binding and electron transfer. Clear interaction between the high and low potential chain in both Cyt1p and centre N variants strongly support long-range interactions in the complex. Studies on the supramolecular association of complex III and complex IV indicate a new role of Cl in stabilising a supracomplex.
- The interaction of the cytochrome bc 1 complex with its substrate cytochrome c : high resolution structure and implications for transient binding (2005)
- Structural studies of membrane transport proteins (2005)
- My graduate thesis is on the “ Structural studies of membrane transport proteins”. Transporters are membrane proteins that have multiple membrane-spanning a-helices. They are dynamic and diverse proteins, undergoing a large conformational change and transporting wide range of susbtrates. Based on their energy source they can be classified into primary and secondary transport systems. Primary transport systems are driven by the use of chemical (ATP) or light energy, while secondary transporters utilize ion gradients to transport substrates. I began my PhD dissertation on secondary transporters by two-dimensional crystallization and electron crystallographic analysis and recently my focus also has shifted towards 3D crystallization. The following projects constitute my PhD thesis: 1) 2D crystallization of MjNhaP1 and pH induced structural change: MjNhaP1, a Na+/H+ antiporter that is regulated by pH has been implicated in homeostasis of H+ and Na+ in Methanococcus jannaschii, a hyperthermophilic archaeon that grows optimally at 85°C. MjNhaP1 was cloned and expressed in E. coli. Two-dimensional crystals were obtained from purified protein at pH4. Electron cryo-microscopy yielded an 8Å projection map. The map of MjNhaP1 shows elongated densities in the centre of the dimer and a cluster of density peaks on either side of the dimer core, indicative of a bundle of 4-6 membrane-spanning helices. The effect of pH on the structure of MjNhaP1was studied in situ in 2D crystals revealing a major change in density within the helix bundle relative to the dimer interface. This change occurred at pH6 and above. The two conformations at low and high pH most likely represent the closed and open states of the antiporter, respectively. This is the first instance where a conformational change associated with the regulation of a secondary transporter appears to map structurally. Reconstruction of 3D map and high-resolution structure by x-ray crystallography would be necessary to understand the mechanism of ion transport and regulation by pH. 2) 2D crystallization of Proline transporter: Proline transporter (PutP) from E.coli belongs the sodium-solute symporter family that includes disease related sodium dependent glucose and iodide transporter in humans. Sodium and proline are co-transported with a stoichiometry of 1:1. Purified PutP was reconstituted to yield 2D crystals that were hexagonal in nature. The 2D crystals had tendency to stack indicating their willingness to form 3D crystals. A projection map of PutP from negatively stained crystals showed trimeric arrangement of protein. Other members of the SSF family have been shown to be monomers. My analysis of oligomeric state of PutP in detergent by blue native gel indicates a monomer in detergent solution. It is likely that PutP can function as a monomer but at higher concentration and in lipid bilayer it tends to form trimer. 3) Oligomeric state and crystallization of carnitine transporter from E.coli: E.coli carnitine transporter (CaiT) belongs to the BCCT (Betaine, Carnitine and Choline) superfamily that transports molecules with quaternary amine groups. CaiT is predicted to span the membrane 12 times and acts as a L-carnitine/g-butyrobetaine exchanger. Unlike other members in this transporter family, it does not require an ion gradient and does not respond to osmotic stress. Over-expression of the protein yielded ~2mg of protein/L of culture. The structure and oligomeric state of the protein were analyzed in detergent and lipid bilayers. Blue native gel electrophoresis indicated that CaiT was a trimer in detergent solution. Gel filtration and cross-linking studies further support this. Reconstitution of CaiT into lipid bilayers resulted in 2D crystals. Analysis of negatively stained 2D crystals confirmed that CaiT is a trimer in the membrane. Initial 3D crystallization trials have been successful and currently, the crystals diffract to 6Å and are being improved. 4) Monomeric porin OmpG: OmpG is a bacterial outer membrane b-barrel protein. It is monomeric and its size (33kDa) places it as a prime candidate for a structural solution, using the recently developed method of solid state NMR (work in collaboration with Prof.Hartmut Oskinat, FMP, Berlin). A long-term aim would be to study porins as templates for designing nanopores, for DNA sequencing and identification. I have expressed OmpG in inclusion bodies and refolded at an efficiency of >90% into a functional form using detergent. OmpG was then crystallized by 2D crystallization yielding an 8Å projection map whose structure was similar to native protein. In addition, these crystals were used for structure determination by solid state NMR. An initial spectrum of heavy isotopically labeled OmpG has allowed identification of specific amino acid residues including threonine and proline. Additionally, I obtained 3D crystals in detergent that diffract to 5.5Å and are being improved.
- Accessory subunits of complex I from Yarrowia lipolytica (2005)
- Mitochondial NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) the largest multiprotein enzyme of the respiratory chain, catalyses the transfer of two electrons from NADH to ubiquinone, coupled to the translocation of four protons across the membrane. In addition to the 14 strictly conserved central subunits it contains a variable number of accessory subunits. At present, the best characterized enzyme is complex I from bovine heart with a molecular mass of about 980 kDa and 32 accessory proteins. In this study, the subunit composition of mitochondrial complex I from the aerobic yeast Y. lipolytica has been analysed by a combination of proteomic and genomic approaches. The sequences of 37 complex I subunits were identified. The sum of their individual molecular masses (about 930 kDa) was consistent with the native molecular weight of approximately 900 kDa for Y. lipolytica complex I obtained by BN-PAGE. A genomic analysis with Y. lipolytica and other eukaryotic databases to search for homologues of complex I subunits revealed 31 conserved proteins among the examined species. A novel protein named “X” was found in purified Y. lipolytica complex I by MALDI-MS. This protein exhibits homology to the thiosulfate sulfurtransferase enzyme referred to as rhodanese. The finding of a rhodanese-like protein in isolated complex I of Y. lipolytica allows to assume a special regulatory mechanism of complex I activity through control of the status of its iron-sulfur clusters. The second part of this study was aimed at investigating the possible role of one of these extra subunits, 39 kDa (NUEM) subunit which is related to the SDRs-enzyme family. The members of this family function in different redox and isomerization reactions and contain a conserved NAD(P)H-binding site. It was proposed that the 39 kDa subunit may be involved in a biosynthetic pathway, but the role of this subunit in complex I is unknown. In contrast to the situation in N. crassa, deletion of the 39 kDa encoding gene in Y. lipolytica led to the absence of fully assembled complex I. This result might indicate a different pathway of complex I assembly in both organisms. Several site-directed mutations were generated in the nucleotide binding motif. These had either no effect on enzyme activity and NADPH binding, or prevented complex I assembly. Mutations of arginine-65 that is located at the end of the second b-strand and responsible for selective interaction with the 2’-phosphate group of NADPH retained complex I activity in mitochondrial membranes but the affinity for the cofactor was markedly decreased. Purification of complex I from mutants resulted in decrease or loss of ubiquinone reductase activity. It is very likely that replacement of R65 not only led to a decrease in affinity for NADPH but also caused instability of the enzyme due to steric changes in the 39 kDa subunit. These data indicate that NADPH bound to the 39 kDa subunit (NUEM) is not essential for complex I activity, but probably involved in complex I assembly in Y. lipolytica.
- Biochemical, structural and functional characterization of diheme-containing quinol:fumarate reductases : the role of heme propionates and the enzymes from pathogenic e-proteobacteria (2005)
- The quinol:fumarate reductase (QFR) is the terminal reductase of anaerobic fumarate respiration, the most commonly occurring type of anaerobic respiration. This membrane protein complex couples the oxidation of menaquinol to menaquinone to the reduction of fumarate to succinate. The three-dimensional crystal structure of the QFR from Wolinella succinogenes has previoulsy been solved at 2.2 Å resolution. Although the diheme-containing QFR from W. succinogenes is known to catalyze an electroneutral process, structural and functional characterization of parental and variant enzymes has revealed active site locations which indicate electrogenic catalysis across the membrane. A solution to this apparent controversy was proposed with the so-called “Epathway hypothesis”. According to this, transmembrane electron transfer via the heme groups is strictly coupled to a parallel, compensatory transfer of protons via a transiently established pathway, which is inactive in the oxidized state of the enzyme. Proposed constituents of the E-pathway are the side chain of Glu C180, and the ring C propionate of the distal heme. Previous experimental evidence strongly supports such a role for the former constituent. One aim of this thesis is to investigate by a combination of specific 13C-heme propionate labeling and FTIR difference spectroscopy whether the ring C propionate of the distal heme is involved in redox-coupled proton transfer in the QFR from W. succinogenes. In addition to W. succinogenes, the primary structures of the QFR enzymes of two other e- proteobacteria are known. These are Campylobacter jejuni and Helicobacter pylori, which unlike W. succinogenes are human pathogens. The QFR from H. pylori has previously been established to be a potential drug target, and the same is likely for the QFR from C. jejuni. The two pathogenic species colonize mucosal surfaces causing several diseases. The possibility of studying these QFRs from these bacteria and creating more efficient drugs specifically active for this enzyme depends substantially on the availability of large amounts of high-quality protein. Further, biochemical and structural studies on QFR enzymes from e- proteobacteria species other than W. succinogenes can be valuable to enlighten new aspects or corroborate the current understanding of this class of membrane proteins.
- Production of the human adenosine A2A receptor in Pichia pastoris, its solubilization and purification, and the selection of a specific single-chain Fv fragment by phage display (2006)
- G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest membrane protein family and play an essential role in signal transduction through the cell membrane. They are currently the targets of approximately 50 % of the pharmaceuticals on the market (Klabunde and Hessler, 2002). However, only one high-resolution GPCR structure has been determined up to now, that of bovine rhodopsin (Palczewski et al., 2000). The GPCR activation and regulation mechanisms are still unknown and other GPCR structures are thus required. MePNet (Membrane Protein Network) was a European consortium dedicated to structural studies of GPCRs. The approach was to produce 100 GPCRs in three expression systems (Escherichia coli, Pichia pastoris and Semliki Forest Virus infected mammalian cells) in order to select at each step of the process (production, solubilization, purification) the constructs that fulfilled quantity and quality (functionality) requirements for crystallization trials. In our team, we screened 38 of the 100 targets in P. pastoris. For each receptor, the clone with the highest production level was identified by dot-blot. The size and homogeneity of each receptor were then analyzed by Western-blot. The human adenosine A2A receptor showed a well-defined and pronounced single band and was thus selected for further characterization. The adenosine A2A receptor is a GPCR mainly localized in the central nervous system and, as it antagonizes dopaminergic activity, it has great potential as a drug target for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Functional characterization by binding assays with the specific antagonist [3H]-ZM241385 demonstrated a Bmax of 56 +/- 3 pmol/mg i.e. pmol of binder per milligram of total membrane protein, and a KD of 0.40 +/- 0.02 nM. Receptor production was then improved by lowering the induction temperature, decreasing the induction time and adding DMSO to the medium. For large-scale production, fermention reached around 300 g cells (wet weight)/L culture, which provided 43 mg of functional receptor in membranes per liter of culture. Functional solubilization was achieved with dodecyl-β-D-maltoside and the soluble yield was increased to 70-80 % of the membrane content by addition of cholesteryl hemisuccinate and increasing the ionic strength. The receptor was successfully purified via Ni-NTA and monomeric avidin chromatography in the presence of the antagonist ZM241385. This strategy produced a pure, homogeneous and stable receptor preparation with functionality demonstrated by radioligand binding assays. The total receptor yield after purification was routinely around 20 % of the membrane functional receptor content and 2 g of membranes provided 4 mg of pure receptor for crystallization trials. GPCRs are very difficult targets for crystallization, and co-crystallization with antibody fragments has been shown to be a successful method for crystallization of membrane proteins. In order to develop such a tool for the adenosine A2A receptor, a single-chain Fv (scFv) fragment specific to the purified receptor was selected by phage display. The receptor was functionally immobilized on the surface of streptavidin beads and after two rounds of selection, 6 different phages were identified several times. After production in E. coli and purification via Ni-NTA affinity chromatography, 4 out of the 6 scFv fragments were sufficiently enriched to be tested by ELISA. For the ELISA, the receptor was functionally immobilized via the biotinylation domain of the construct in a 96-well streptavidin-coated plate. The antibody fragments binding to the receptor were identified based on interaction with HRP-conjugated protein L. One scFv fragment gave a positive ELISA signal 10 fold above background and titration of the scFv fragment binding to the receptor was specific and saturable. However no complex of scFv fragment and receptor was observed on gel filtration. In order to have a more sensitive detection method, the scFv fragment was labeled with fluorescein: a complex was then observed up on gel filtration but the binding appeared to be non-specific. A pull-down assay with immobilized non-labeled scFv fragment finally confirmed the specificity of the binding, but also the low affinity of the interaction. Affinity maturation of this specific scFv fragment by a random mutagenesis and selection process should improve this parameter in order to obtain an adapted tool for co-crystallization.