Year of publication
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Overexpression, biochemical characterization and crystallization of Chitin Synthase 2 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (2008)
- Life-threatening fungal infections are becoming increasingly common for immunocompromised patients such as those with AIDS, or those undergoing organ transplantation or chemotheraphy, as well as for other health-vulnerable patients. Excellent targets for antifungal drugs are chitin synthases, which are essential for survival of the fungus and lacking in humans. To design new antifungal drugs, knowledge of the three-dimensional structure and mechanism of action of chitin synthases are crucial. Chitin synthases are members of an important family of enzymes that synthesize structural polysaccharides, such as cellulose, β(1,3)-glucan, β(1,4)-mannan and hyaluronan. Therefore, chitin synthases could be used as a model system to understand these more complex enzymes, which are also of major medical and commercial importance. Chitin synthase 2 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ScChS2), the protein under study, is an integral membrane protein that synthesizes the primary septum between mother and daughter cells in budding yeast. It is essential for proper cell separation and expected to be highly regulated. An important aspect is that ScChS2 shows 55% sequence identity and is functionally analogous to chitin synthase 1 from the human opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans, this enzyme is also essential for cell survival (Munro, Winter et al. 2001). ...
- Three-dimensional structure of the glycine-betaine transporter BetP by cryo electron crystallography (2008)
- The soil bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum has five secondary transporters for compatible solutes allowing it to cope with osmotic stress. The most abundant of them, the transporter BetP, performs a high affinity uptake of glycine-betain when encountering hyperosmotic stress. BetP belongs to the betaine/carnitine/choline/transporter (BCCT) family, and is predicted to have twelve transmembrane helices with both termini facing the cytoplasm. The goal of this thesis is to facilitate understanding of BetP function by determining a three dimensional (3D) model of its structure. Two-dimensional (2D) crystallization of wild-type (WT) BetP has been successfully performed by reconstitution into a mixture of E. coli lipids and bovine cardiolipin, which resulted in vesicular crystals diffracting to 7.5 Å resolution (Ziegler, Morbach et al. 2004). Diffraction patterns of these crystals however showed unfocused spots, generally due to high mosaicity. Better results were obtained by using the constitutively active mutant BetPdeltaC45 in which the first 45 amino acids of the positively charged C-terminus were removed. BetPdeltaC45 crystals obtained under the same conditions for BetP WT were concluded to be pseudo crystals, based on the inconsistence of symmetry. These crystals had BetPdeltaC45 molecules randomly up/downwards inserted into membrane crystals, and cannot be used for structure determination, even though they diffracted up to 7 Å. The problem of pseudo crystal formation could be solved by changing the lipids used for 2D crystallization to a native lipid extract from C. glutamicum cells. This change of lipids improved the crystals to well-ordered packing with exclusive p121_b symmetry. To understand the role of lipids in crystal packing and order, lipids were extracted at different stages during crystallization, and identified by using multiple precursor ion scanning mass spectrometry. The results show that phosphatidyl glycerol (PG) 16:0-18:1 is the most dominant lipid species in C. glutamicum membranes, and that BetP has a preference for the fatty acid moieties 16:0-18:1. Crystallization with synthetic PG 16:0-18:1 proved that an excess of this lipid prevents pseudo crystal formation, but these crystals did not reach the quality as previously achieved by using the C. glutamicum lipids. Apart from the effect of lipids in crystallinity, the concentration and type of salts influenced crystal growth and morphology. High salt conditions (>400 mM LiCl or KCl) yielded tubular crystals, whereas low salt conditions (<300 mM LiCl, NaCl or KCl) led to formation of up to 10 µm large sheet-like crystals. The intermediate concentration gave a mixture of sheet-like and tubular crystals. In terms of resolution, sheets diffracted better than tubes. The sheet-like crystals used for 3D map reconstruction were obtained from a dialysis buffer containing 200 mM NaCl combined with using C. glutamicum lipids. Electron microscopic images were taken from frozen-hydrated crystals using a helium-cooled JEOL 300 SFF microscope or a liquid nitrogen-cooled FEI Tecnai G2 microscope at 300 kV, which allowed optimal data collection and minimized radiation damage to the sample. More than 1000 images of tilt angles up to 50° were taken and evaluated using optical diffraction of a laser beam. The best 200 images were processed with the MRC image processing software package, and 79 images from different tilt angles were merged to the final data set used for calculation of a 3D map at a planar resolution of 8 Å. The structure shows BetPdeltaC45 as a trimer with each monomer consisting of 12 transmembrane alpha-helices. Protein termini and loop regions could not be determined due to the limited resolution of the map. Six of the twelve helices line a central cavity forming a potential substrate-binding chamber. Each monomer shows a central cavity in different sizes and shapes. Thus, the constitutively active BetPdeltaC45 thus forms an unusual asymmetric homotrimer. BetP most likely reflects three different conformational states of secondary transporters: the cytoplasmically open (C), the occluded (O), and the periplasmically open (P) states. The C and O states are similar to BetP WT projection structure, while the P state is discrepant and highly flexible due to the shape and size of the central cavity as well as the lowest intensity of the density. The observation of the P state corresponds well to the constitutively active property of BetPdeltaC45. For the high resolution structure of the C and O states are available, this work presents the first structural information of the P state of a secondary transporter.
- Mechanisms of energy transfer and conversion in plant light-harvesting complex II (2009)
- The light-harvesting complex of photosystem II (LHC-II) is the major antenna complex in plant photosynthesis. It accounts for roughly 30% of the total protein in plant chloroplasts, which makes it arguably the most abundant membrane protein on Earth, and binds about half of plant chlorophyll (Chl). The complex assembles as a trimer in the thylakoid membrane and binds a total of 54 pigment molecules, including 24 Chl a, 18 Chl b, 6 lutein (Lut), 3 neoxanthin (Neo) and 3 violaxanthin (Vio). LHC-II has five key roles in plant photosynthesis. It: (1) harvests sunlight and transmits excitation energy to the reaction centres of photosystems II and I, (2) regulates the amount of excitation energy reaching each of the two photosystems, (3) has a structural role in the architecture of the photosynthetic supercomplexes, (4) contributes to the tight appression of thylakoid membranes in chloroplast grana, and (5) protects the photosynthetic apparatus from photo damage by non photochemical quenching (NPQ). A major fraction of NPQ is accounted for its energy-dependent component qE. Despite being critical for plant survival and having been studied for decades, the exact details of how excess absorbed light energy is dissipated under qE conditions remain enigmatic. Today it is accepted that qE is regulated by the magnitude of the pH gradient (ΔpH) across the thylakoid membrane. It is also well documented that the drop in pH in the thylakoid lumen during high-light conditions activates the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE), which converts the carotenoid Vio into zeaxanthin (Zea) as part of the xanthophyll cycle. Additionally, studies with Arabidopsis mutants revealed that the photosystem II subunit PsbS is necessary for qE. How these physiological responses switch LHC-II from the active, energy transmitting to the quenched, energy-dissipating state, in which the solar energy is not transmitted to the photosystems but instead dissipated as heat, remains unclear and is the subject of this thesis. From the results obtained during this doctoral work, five main conclusions can be drawn concerning the mechanism of qE: 1. Substitution of Vio by Zea in LHC-II is not sufficient for efficient dissipation of excess excitation energy. 2. Aggregation quenching of LHC-II does not require Vio, Neo nor a specific Chl pair. 3. With one exception, the pigment structure in LHC-II is rigid. 4. The two X-ray structures of LHC-II show the same energy transmitting state of the complex. 5. Crystalline LHC-II resembles the complex in the thylakoid membrane. Models of the aggregation quenching mechanism in vitro and the qE mechanism in vivo are presented as a corollary of this doctoral work. LHC-II aggregation quenching in vitro is attributed to the formation of energy sinks on the periphery of LHC-II through random interaction with other trimers, free pigments or impurities. A similar but unrelated process is proposed to occur in the thylakoid membrane, by which excess excitation energy is dissipated upon specific interaction between LHC-II and a PsbS monomer carrying Zea. At the end of this thesis, an innovative experimental model for the analysis of all key aspects of qE is proposed in order to finally solve the qE enigma, one of the last unresolved problems in photosynthesis research.
- 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.