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- In vivo selection of retroviral display libraries for tumor homing (2010)
- The display of foreign polypeptides and proteins on the surface of viruses or cells provides an important tool for the engineering of biomolecules and the analysis of their interactions with binding partners. The most extensively used display platform is the coat protein of the filamentous bacteriophage (Smith, 1985). Phage display libraries have often been selected for polypeptides, e.g. single chain (sc) antibodies that bind to a protein of interest, but in vivo selection could only be demonstrated for peptides so far. An alternative display platform is the retrovirus murine leukemia virus (MLV). Here, polypeptides are displayed at the N-terminus of the viral envelope glycoprotein. Proof of principle for this platform was demonstrated for protease substrate libraries, which can be selected through coupling proteolytic activation with viral infectivity (Buchholz et al., 1998). Selection of the library CX4A on living cells resulted in viruses with more than three orders of magnitude improved spreading efficiency through tumor cells (Hartl et al., 2005). Also scAb libraries have recently been displayed and selected using retroviruses (Urban et al., 2005). The library scFvlibxMo displays the repertoire of phage display preselected sc antibodies for laminin-1 binding. The retrovirus based selection process resulted in laminin-specific sc antibodies with improved expression levels in mammalian cells. This thesis describes the in vivo (i.e. in mouse tumor models) selection of the C-X4-A and scFvlibxMo for tumor homing upon systemic delivery. For selection of the protease substrate library C-X4-A a subcutaneous tumor was induced in SCID mice followed by three systemic injections of the library. The selection process was monitored over a period of 34 days. After the incubation period mice were sacrificed and virus load in organs and tumor determined. PCR analysis after 34 days showed that virus from the library had preferentially infected the tumor. Sequence analysis showed the selection of protease substrates with the most prominent one with a frequency of over 65%. The four most prominent protease substrate variants where reconstituted into the original viral backbone for further investigation (C-SK-A, C-HI-A, C-HM-A and C-HS-A). Interestingly, these viruses exhibited a reduced spreading capacity in vitro on HT1080 cells as compared to the C-AK-A virus, which had previously been selected on HT1080 cells. When assayed for tumor homing, however, viruses C-HI-A and C-HS-A had clearly improved in comparison to C-AK-A. Tumor tissue had been infected at rates of over 55% while virus load of extratumoral organs was very low (infection rates <0.7 for C-HS-A and <0.02 for C-HI-A). Tumor targeting capacity had thus been improved over 10-fold by the in vivo selection of the C-X4-A library. The experimental set up for the in vivo selection of the scFvlibxMo library was performed according to that of the C-X4-A library. Fingerprint analysis of the selected viruses that infected tumor tissue resulted in the identification of seven antibody variants showing unique CDR3 sequences. Two prominent clones (M49T-A and M49T-B) were cloned back into the MoMLV genome for further analysis of the reconstituted viruses. While variant B bound laminin-1 efficiently, variant A was unable to do so, although it was selected at highest frequency (76%). Both reconstituted viruses were equally well infectious and spread through HT1080rec1 cells at a similar efficiency as MoMLV. In an in vivo competition experiment the selected viruses clearly out-competed a laminin-1 binding reference virus L36xMo for tumor homing. To understand the molecular driving forces behind the in vivo selection process the epitope of the selected scFv M49T-A was identified using a phage peptide library approach. In silico analysis led to the identification of a small group of possible antigens, including tenascin, fibronectin and collagen. The data described in this thesis demonstrate that the retrovirus display platform is capable of allowing the in vivo selection of protease substrates and scFvs. Notably, the replication competence of the system introduced an additional level of complexity to the library. The performed in vivo selections significantly enhanced tumor tropism. Selective infection of tumor cells combined with transfer of anti-tumoral genes is an attractive strategy for cancer therapy being in focus of current research. The viruses selected in this thesis build prime candidates for targeted retrovirus based tumor therapy.
- Structural determinants for substrate specificity of the promiscuous multidrug efflux pump AcrB (2013)
- Opportunistic Gram-negative pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter Baumanii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are becoming more and more multiresistant against many commonly available antibiotics [39, 40]. An important resistance mechanism of Gram-negative bacteria is the efflux of noxious compounds by tripartite systems [39, 41-44]. The best studied and most clinically relevant tripartite system is the AcrA-AcrB-TolC system of Escherichia coli, where substrate recognition and energy transduction takes place in the inner membrane protein AcrB. AcrB has a remarkably huge substrate spectrum and can recognize structurally diverse molecules, such as hexan in contrast to erythromycin, as its substrates . Therefore, overproduction of the tripartite system can render a Gram-negative pathogen resistant against multiple antibiotics at once. The mechanisms of how AcrB is able to recognize such an enormous spectrum of molecules as substrates, without compromising its specificity (e.g. by neglecting essential compounds like lipids or gluclose as its susbtates), remained puzzling. Structural insight into substrate specificity was so far limited to two co-crystal structures of AcrB, where minocycline and doxorubicin, respectively, were identified bound to an internal binding pocket of AcrB. This binding pocket is particularly deeply buried into internal parts of the T monomer of AcrB and was, therefore, denoted deep binding pocket (DBP). Analysis of several AcrB co-crystal structures with substrate molecules bound to the DBP [4, 23, 25] indicated that the substrate promiscuity involved multisite binding modes within the DBP. Multisite binding modes, where different substrate molecules can bind to slightly different positions and orientations to the same binding pocket, is a common feature of multidrug recognizing proteins such as QacR or BmrR [27-29]. Nevertheless, AcrB's substrate spectrum is much broader than substrate spectra of most other multidrug recognizing proteins. Therefore, it is likely that additional mechanisms are involved in mediating the observed high substrate promiscuity of AcrB. In our recently published high-resolution AcrB/doxorubicin co-crystal structure (pdb entry: 4DX7 ) we were able to identify two additional substrate binding pockets in the L monomer of AcrB: i) the access pocket (AP), with an opening towards the periplasm, and ii) a putative binding site in a groove between transmembrane helices 8 and 9 (TM8/TM9 groove), accessible from the lipid layer of the inner membrane. Both binding pockets are likely to be access sites for substrates towards AcrB. Furthermore, each of the binding pockets are possibly specialized to recognize a specific subset of the entire substrate spectrum of AcrB, i.e. highly hydrophobic substrates (e.g. n-dodecyl-ß-d-maltoside or sodium dodecylsulfate) might access AcrB towards the TM8/TM9 groove and water soluble substrates (e.g. berberine) might access AcrB towards the AP. Since substrates will accumulate in the membrane or the periplasm according to their hydrophilic or hydrophobic nature, substrates will be "pre-selected" by the medium, rather than by the protein itself, and guided to their appropriate access site. This process is proposed to be called "medium- mediated pre-selection". The AcrB/doxorubicin co-crystal structure (pdb entry: 4DX7 ) furthermore revealed that the AP and DBP are in next neighborhood to each other and are separated by a switch loop. This switch loop adopts distinct conformations in the L, T and O monomers. Specific switch loop conformations are strongly involved in coordinating the selective occupation of both binding pockets, the AP and the DBP. The conformation of the switch loop in the L monomer (L-switch loop) opens the AP and closes the DBP, whereas the conformation of the switch loop in the T monomer (T-switch Loop) opens the DBP and closes the AP. An analysis of all asymmetric AcrB structures indicated that the L-switch loop is able to adopt multiple distinct conformations, whereas the conformation of T-switch loop remained largely congruent in all crystal structures. Moreover, each distinct switch loop conformation, observed in co-crystal structures of AcrB with occupied AP [4, 23], was perfectly adapted to the bound substrate molecule. Therefore, the putatively flexible switch loop is likely to act as an adaptive module and mediates a high binding pocket plasticity without altering the global protein structure. This binding mode is called adaptor-mediated binding mechanism, where an flexible adaptive module (like the switch loop) is able to adapt the surface shape of an binding pocket to different substrate molecules. Furthermore, structural and biochemical analyses of an AcrB G616N variant, revealed the involvement of specific switch loop conformations in the substrate specificity of AcrB. A substitution of G616, located on the switch loop, to N616 was able to alter the conformation of the switch loop exclusively in the L monomers of AcrB, whereas the switch loop conformations in T and O monomers remained congruent to the conformations observed in crystal structures of wildtype AcrB. Moreover, cells producing the AcrB G616N and MexB, both bearing the G616N amino acid substitution, exhibited a reduced resistance against certain substrates, whereas the resistance against most other substrates remained on the level of wildtype AcrB. Correlations of the phenotypes with minimal projection areas, a novel 2-spatiodimensional parameter which approximates the size of a substrate molecule, revealed that AcrB variants with a G616N substitution have a reduced efflux activity for exclusively large substrate molecules. The rejection of large substrates is most likely connected with altered L-switch loop conformations....
- Development and application of optogenetic methods to functionally characterize synaptic transmission and neural circuits in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (2011)
- 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.
- Expression and characterization of P-type ATPases for structural studies (2007)
- Two types of proteins transport ions across the membrane – ion channels and ion pumps. Ion pumps transport ions against their electrochemical gradient by co-transporting another ion or a substrate molecule through a concentration gradient or by coupling this process to an energy source like ATP. Those that couple ATP hydrolysis to ion transport are called ion motive ATPases and can be classified as ‘V’, ‘F’ and ‘P’ types. In this thesis, two sub-classes of P-type ATPases, PIIIA and PIB were studied. Attempts were made to over-express and crystallize the plant proton pump AHA2 (a PIIIA-ATPase). Also, the two putative copper transporting ATPases, CtrA3 (CopB-like) and CtrA2 (CopA-like) from Aquifex aeolicus (both PIB pumps) were over-expressed in E. coli and characterized. PIIIA-type pumps transport protons across the membrane and are found exclusively in plants and fungi, and probably some archaea. One of the most characterized proton pump biochemically is the A. thaliana proton pump AHA2. An 8Å projection map of this enzyme is already available (Jahn 2001). PIBATPases, also called CPX type pumps transport heavy metal ions such as Cu+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Pb2+, Cd2+, Co2+ across biological membranes and play an important role in homeostasis and biotolerance of these metals. CopA and CopB are two such proteins that transport copper across cell membrane found in many prokaryotes. CopB-like proteins are found almost exclusively in bacteria, with CPH sequence motif, while CopA-like proteins have CPC sequence motif, also found in eukaryotic copper transporters including human ATP7A and ATP7B. CopB extrudes Cu2+ across the membrane. CopA is activated by and transports Cu+ but the direction of transport is debated. Attempts were made to over-express the plant proton pump AHA2 in yeast Pichia pastoris. However, the yeast expressed only a truncated protein, which could not be used for further studies. It can be concluded that P. pastoris strain SMD1163 is not a good host for expression of AHA2. Focus was then shifted to AHA2 that has been over-expressed and purified from S. cerevisiae strain RS72. Growth and purification protocols had to be changed from published methods because of laboratory constraints and this probably had an effect on the protein produced. The protein purified from S. cerevisiae could not be crystallized reproducibly for structural studies by electron microscopy. CtrA3 was expressed in E. coli and purified using Ni2+-NTA matrix. Like CopB of A. fulgidus (Mana Capelli 2003), it was active only in the presence of Cu2+ and to some extent in Ag+. The protein was maximally active at 75°C, at pH 7 and in presence of cysteine. Lipids were essential for the activity of CtrA3. However, when the protein was purified in Cymal-6, CtrA3 could not hydrolyze ATP, even when lipids were added to the reaction mixture. For reconstitution of CtrA3 into liposomes for 2D crystallization, several lipids were tested. To screen the lipids compatible for protein incorporation, CtrA3 was dialyzed with different lipids at a high lipid-to-protein ratio of 10:1 and centrifuged by sucrose density gradient. Protein incorporated in lipids localized with liposome fraction in the gradient. Most of the CtrA3 was incorporated into DPPC with no aggregation. This lipid was used for reconstitution of CtrA3 at low LPRs, and at an LPR of 0.3-0.5, the protein formed 2D crystals. A NaCl concentration of 50mM was necessary for the formation of crystals. However, salt removal by dialysis prior to harvesting was essential for obtaining wellordered lattices of CtrA3. Addition of preservatives like trehalose and tannin or direct plunging in liquid ethane for cryo-microscopy destroyed the crystal lattice. Similar to CtrA3, the gene responsible for expression of CtrA2 was amplified from genomic DNA of A. aeolicus and expressed in E. coli and purified by Ni2+-NTA. Functional characterization of CtrA2 was done by analyzing ATP hydrolysis activity of the enzyme. Similar to CopA of A. fulgidus (Mandal 2002), CtrA2 was activated in the presence of Ag+ and to some extent, Cu+. It is possible that both the copper ATPases of A. aeolicus have different ion selectivity- CtrA3, specific for Cu2+ and CtrA2, specific for Cu+. Maximal activity of CtrA2 was also at 75°C. Cysteine was essential for activity of CtrA2, but the protein was not dependent on addition of lipids for activation. Reconstitution of CtrA2 was done similar to CtrA3 for screening of lipids for 2D crystallization. Of the lipids tested, DOPC reconstituted the protein best. However, screening at low LPRs did not yield any crystals. Even though both CtrA3 and CtrA2 are similar heavy metal transporting Ptype ATPases from the same organism and have 36% identity, they behaved completely different in their expression levels in E. coli, purification profiles, activity and reconstitution in lipids.
- Production, biochemical characterization and preliminary structural studies of human Endothelin B receptor in its ligand-bound state (2007)
- G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest superfamily of cell surface receptors and possess a signature motif of seven transmembrane helices. The endothelin B (ETB) receptor is a member of rhodopsin like GPCR family. It plays an important role in vasodilation and is found in the membranes of the endothelial cells enveloping blood vessels. Knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of G-protein coupled receptors in general would significantly add to our understanding of their molecular mechanisms and would be useful in the search for new specific drugs. However, three-dimensional structural analysis will require milligram quantities of pure and homogeneous protein. This dissertation is a study of the production, biochemical characterization and preliminary structural studies of the human ETB G-protein coupled receptor. The present work aimed at elucidating the structure and mechanistic details of function of the receptor by using a combination of X-ray crystallographic and NMR methods for collecting structural data. To obtain homogenous and monodisperse receptor protein preparation for structural and functional studies, we implemented the baculovirus expression system for the production of ETB receptor for the present work. The two step affinity purification ensured capture of full-length receptor. Silver stained SDS-PAGE of the purified receptor-ligand complex indicated greater than 90% protein purity. Based on previous reports, we used the high affinity ligand (endothelin -1) binding to the receptor for co-crystallization of receptor-ligand complex by locking the receptor in the activated conformation. As a prerequisite for 3D crystallization trials, the stability of the detergent solubilized receptor-ligand complex was assessed with respect to pH, temperature and time. Receptor-ligand complex did not show any degradation and aggregation over 6 days at 4°C and 18°C. Interestingly, change of pH suggested that receptor-ligand complex is unstable at lower pH due to possible charge induced conformational changes. In our work, we introduced the idea of using fluorophore labeled ligand for simple visual recognition of the receptor-ligand complex during purification and crystallization. On the other hand, we alternatively used biotinylated endothelin-1 to produce an adequate amount of ligand bound receptor complex, thus ensuring homogeneity of the purified complex for use in structural studies. Thus far, preliminary crystals have been obtained for both the unlabelled ET-1 and fluorophore labeled ET-1 complexed with ETB receptor. Moreover, we performed the systematic investigation of the protein/peptide binding partner for the receptor-ligand complex with the chief aims of stabilizing structure and increasing the possibilities of 3D-crystal contacts. Thus subsequent to formation of receptor-ligand complex, the additional in vitro formation of a ternary arrestin-receptor-ligand complex was also attempted for use in structural studies. We successfully demonstrated that arrestin mutant (R169E) forms a tight complex with ETB receptor regardless of its phosphorylation state. A second approach to get insight into the ETB receptor ligand binding site relied on the use of spin isotope labeled ET-1 ligand peptide by employing solid state MAS NMR method. Preliminary data provided compelling evidence that the C-terminal region of the peptide is immobilized in an ordered environment and presumably bound to the receptor. This indicates that the approach is feasible, although there are difficulties in sample preparation for further spectral measurements and data collection which are currently being discussed in ongoing investigations. At this point of our research work, we initiated a collaborative effort to obtain high yields of pure, active receptor without post translational modifications, from an E. coli cell lysate based in vitro expression system. We successfully optimized the production of homogenous and monodisperse endothelin B receptor in mg amounts. Thus this could potentially provide an alternative source of high quality receptor production in large quantities for immediate crystallization trials. Thus we hope that the results from these investigations can be applied in a more general sense to the production and crystallization of other G protein-coupled receptors.