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- Characterization of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase and its heterologous production in Escherichia coli (2013)
- This work presents a biochemical, functional and structural characterization of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase obtained using both a native form (AAF1FO) and a heterologous form (EAF1FO) of this enzyme. F1FO ATP synthases catalyze the synthesis of ATP from ADP and inorganic phosphate driven by ion motive forces across the membrane and therefore play a key cellular function. Because of their central role in supporting life, F1FO ATP synthases are ubiquitous and have been remarkably conserved throughout evolution. For their biological importance, F1FO ATP synthases have been extensively studied for many decades and many of them were characterized from both a functional and a structural standpoint. However, important properties of ATP synthases – specifically properties pertaining to their membrane embedded subunits – have yet to be determined and no structures are available to date for the intact enzyme complex. Therefore, F1FO ATP synthases are still a major focus of research worldwide. Our research group had previously reported an initial characterization of AAF1FO and had indicated that this enzyme presents unique features, i.e. a bent central stalk and a putatively heterodimeric peripheral stalk. Based on such a characterization, this enzyme revealed promising for structural and functional studies on ATP synthases and became the focus of this doctoral thesis. Two different lines of research were followed in this work. First, the characterization of AAF1FO was extended by bioinformatic, biochemical and enzymatic analyses. The work on AAF1FO led to the identification of a new detergent that maintains a higher homogeneity and integrity of the complex, namely the detergent trans-4-(trans-4’-propylcyclohexyl)cyclohexyl-α-D-maltoside (α-PCC). The characterization of AAF1FO in this new detergent showed that AAF1FO is a proton-dependent, not a sodium ion-dependent ATP synthase and that its ATP hydrolysis mechanism needs to be triggered and activated by high temperatures, possibly inducing a conformational switch in subunit γ. Moreover, this approach suggested that AAF1FO may present unusual features in its membrane subunits, i.e. short N-terminal segments in subunits a and c with implications for the membrane insertion mechanism of these subunits. Investigating on these unique features of A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase could not be done using A. aeolicus cells, because these require a harsh and dangerous environment for growth and they are inaccessible to genetic manipulations. Therefore, a second approach was pursued, in which an expression system was created to produce the enzyme in the heterologous host E. coli. This second approach was experimentally challenging, because A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase is a 500-kDa multimeric membrane enzyme with a complicated and still not entirely determined stoichiometry and because its encoding genes are scattered throughout A. aeolicus genome, rather than being organized in one single operon. However, an artificial operon suitable for expression was created in this work and led to the successful production of an active and fully assembled form of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase. Such artificial operon was created using a stepwise approach, in which we expressed and studied first individual subunits, then subcomplexes, and finally the entire F1FO ATP synthase complex. We confirmed experimentally that subunits b1 and b2 form a heterodimeric subcomplex in the E. coli membranes, which is a unique case among ATP synthases of non-photosynthetic organisms. Moreover, we determined that the b1b2 subcomplex is sufficient to recruit the soluble F1 subcomplex to the membranes, without requiring the presence of the other membrane subunits a and c. The latter subunits can be produced in our expression system only when the whole ATP synthase is expressed, but not in isolation nor in the context of smaller FO subcomplexes. These observations led us to propose a novel mechanism for the assembly of ATP synthases, in which first the F1 subcomplex attaches to the membrane via subunit b1b2, and then cring and subunits a assemble to complete the FO subcomplex. Furthermore, we could purify the heterologous ATP synthase (EAF1FO) to homogeneity by chromatography and electro-elution. Enzymatic assays showed that the purified form of EAF1FO is as active as AAF1FO. Peptide mass fingerprinting showed that EAF1FO is composed of the same subunits as AAF1FO and all soluble and membrane subunits could be identified. Finally, single-particle electron microscopy analysis revealed that the structure of EAF1FO is identical to that of AAF1FO. Therefore, the EAF1FO expression system serves as a reliable platform for investigating on properties of AAF1FO. Specifically, in this work, EAF1FO was used to study the membrane insertion mechanism of rotary subunit c. Subunits c possess different lengths and levels of hydrophobicity across species and by analyzing their N-terminal variability, four phylogenetic groups of subunits c were distinguished (groups 1 to 4). As a member of group 2, the subunit c from A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase is characterized by an N-terminal segment that functions as a signal peptide with SRP recognition features, a unique case for bacterial F1FO ATP synthases. By accurately designing mutants of EAF1FO, we determined that such a signal peptide is strictly necessary for membrane insertion of subunit c and we concluded that A. aeolicus subunit c inserts into E. coli membranes using a different pathway than E. coli subunit c. Such a property may be common to other ATP synthases from extremophilic organisms, which all cluster in the same phylogenetic group. In conclusion, the successful production of the fully assembled and active F1FO ATP synthase from A. aeolicus in E. coli reported in this work provides a novel genetic system to study A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase. To a broader extent, it will also serve in the future as a solid reference for designing strategies aimed at producing large multi-subunit complexes with complicated stoichiometry.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- First insights into the phosphorylation of Toc34 proteins (2011)
- The translocation of nuclear-encoded precursor proteins into chloroplasts is a highly ordered process involving the action of several components to regulate this molecular ensemble. Not only GTP hydrolysis and GDP release but also the phosphorylation of TOC GTPases is a widely discussed mechanism to regulate protein import. The receptor component (Toc34) and its isoform of A. thaliana (atToc33) were found to be regulated by phosphorylation. Although the phosphorylation of Toc33 is already known for several years, several questions regarding the molecular components involved in the regulation of the phosphorylation process, precisely what is the protein kinase and where this kinase is initially localized, so far remained unclear. This thesis aimed at the defining of the phosphorylation status of TOC GTPases in monomeric and/or dimeric states, the identification of the nature of Toc33-PK (protein kinase), and in the same context it aimed at gaining first insights into the physiological significance of Toc33 phosphorylation. To this end, (I) An in vitro and in vivo system for investigating of TOC GTPases Phosphorylation (in monomeric or dimeric state) was developed. Since no information is available about the phosphorylation status of the Toc159 isoforms, the second receptor of the TOC complex, it was interesting to investigate whether these isoforms undergo phosphorylation or not. The results indicated that atToc159 isoforms are able to be phosphorylated by the kinase activity in purified outer envelope membranes (OEMs) of pea, but not atToc132. Moreover, an artificial dimer of psToc34 based on the interaction of a C-terminally fused leucine zipper was not phosphorylated. This result reflected the inability of the OEM kinase to phosphorylate the dimers of TOC GTPases. Also, In vivo labeling of atToc33 was developed and occurred in a dose-dependent manner. Therefore, this results evidenced that in vitro phosphorylation of atToc33 (both endogenous wild type and recombinant expressed proteins) is not artificial labeling but represents a physiological relevance. CD (circular dichroism) measurements revealed that recombinant GTPase domain of atToc33 is preferentially phosphorylated in its folded state. Therefore, it could be suggested that folding of atToc33rec is a prerequisite for its phosphorylation and the phosphorylation event occurs as a posttranslational modification most likely after insertion of Toc33 (Toc34) into the OE of chloroplasts. Secondly, (II) Isolation and identification of Toc33-PK from OEMs of chloroplasts was performed. Four independent strategies were developed to identify the Toc33-protein kinase: UV-induced and chemically-based crosslinking, different applied chromatographic techniques, identification of PK-Toc33 interaction by means of HDN-PAGE (histidine- and deoxycholate-based native PAGE), and finally mass spectrometric approaches were performed on fractions including the potential kinase activity. UV-induced crosslinking procedure was developed and resulted in covalent bonding of nine proteins to [a-32P] ATP, while chemically-based one was not significant. The applied chromatographic and HDN-PAGE approaches, including mass spectrometry, have revealed the identification of 13 protein kinases. Of these identified kinases, phototropin2 (Phot2, AT5G58140), leucine-rich repeat PK (LRR-PK, AT4G28650.1), and receptor-like transmembrane PK (RLK, AT5G56040.2) were selected as the most promising candidates (ca. kinase type and one transmembrane helix for membrane localization). (III) The physiological significance of Toc33 phosphoryation was shown to link this process with the environmental changes (especially, the light conditions). Identification of chloroplast OE-located PKs performed by nLC-MALDI-MS/MS resulted in the detection of Phot2. Furthermore, the subcellular localization of Phot2 in OEM of chloroplasts was confirmed by immunoblotting experiments using a-Phot2 antibody. The kinase activity of Phot2 towards TOC GTPases was characterized and revealed that fused GST-KD (kinase domain) protein able to specifically phosphorylate atToc33rec, but not atToc159rec. Also, endogenous atPhot2 was upregulated and heavily detected in the ppi1-S181A plant line (where serine to alanine exchange was performed to abolish the phosphorylation of atToc33). Hence, we suggested that certain signal cascades may directly or indirectly link Toc33 receptor phosphorylation, protein levels of Phot2 (as promising PK candidate), and irradiation conditions (as an inducing signal of the subsequent phosphorylation events). Light-dependent phosphorylation of Toc33 was shown either after de-etiolation conditions or after high light intensities of blue light was performed. Therefore, phosphorylation of Toc33 might be identified as an external regulatory signal to regulate preproteins import into chloroplasts in response to environmental conditions (e.g. light changes) or as a signal of chloroplast biogenesis.
- 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.
- Heterologous production and characterization of selected secondary active transporters from the CDF, KUP, MOP, FNT, RhtB and SulP families (2010)
- Genes coding for membrane proteins make up 25%-30% of the genome in most organisms. Membrane proteins play an important role in cell functioning and their importance is enhanced by the fact that a large number of drugs are targeted at membrane proteins. Paradoxically, experimentally determined structures of membrane protein correspond to only about 1.7% of protein structures deposited in the protein data bank (PDB). This is largely due to the fact that membrane proteins are difficult to deal with owing to their amphipathic nature. The low abundance of membrane proteins in native tissue makes heterologous overexpression of these genes a necessity. This thesis work aimed at heterologous production of several secondary active transporter proteins for structural and functional characterizations and establishing alternative strategies to overcome the obstacles associated with heterologous overproduction. Four members of the heavy metal transporting cation diffusion facilitator (CDF) family from S. typhimurium and A. aeolicus were heterologously overproduced in E. coli and functionally characterized by an in vivo complementation assay using the zinc transport deficient E. coli GG48 strain. Out of these four, Aq_2073 from A. aeolicus was produced in large scale with substantial yield and purity sufficient to carry out structural studies. After extensive stability studies with different detergents, pHs and temperatures, the protein was subjected to 3D and 2D crystallization trials. Several C- terminal truncated constructs were made and the simultaneous crystallization screenings were carried out. These resulted in initial needle like crystals in 3D crystallization trials or optimum sized vesicles with crystalline patches in 2D crystallization trials but no obvious crystal. The protein showed significant increase in melting temperature in the presence of cadmium, when tested by differential scanning calorimetry. Another transporter, STM3880 of the potassium uptake permease (KUP) family from S. typhimurium, was heterologously overproduced in E. coli, purified by affinity chromatography, reconstituted into artificial liposome and functionally characterized by solid supported membrane based electrophysiology. In order to establish alternative expression strategies, continuous exchange cell free expression (CECF) of proteins from four different families was carried out. This method found to be aptly complementing the cell-based production approach. Targets from resistance to homoserine/threonine (RhtB) family not expressing in vivo could be expressed and purified using CECF. STM1781 of the sulfate permease (SulP) family was expressed, purified and characterized for stability while the cell-based production resulted in extensive degradation. PF0780 of multidrug/oligosaccharidyllipid/polysaccharide flippase (MOP) family was also purified to homogeneity and the stability was comparable to in vivo produced protein. Moreover, the effect of maltose binding protein (MBP) fusion at N-terminus on production and membrane integration was tested with three selected targets. The analysis revealed decreased yields in the presence of MBP if the protein had both termini in the cytoplasm. This work succeed in heterologously overproducing and establishing purification protocols for several secondary active transporters aiming at structural and functional characterization in a structural genomics framework. It also showed that integration of alternative strategies, like employing both cell-based and cell-free heterologous expression systems, expands the overall expression space coverage and in turn increases the chance of success of a structural genomics styled project.
- 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.