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- 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.
- 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.
- Thermodynamic and kinetic characterisation of the interaction between mitochondrial cytochrome bc 1 complex and cytochrome c and implications for transient binding and electron transfer (2009)
- In mitochondrial respiration, the soluble protein cytochrome c accepts an electron from the membrane bound cytochrome bc1. The interaction between cytochrome bc1 and cytochrome c is highly transient in nature, enabling turnover numbers greater than 160 s-1. Yeast cytochrome bc1 has been successfully crystallised with bound cytochrome c with the help of an antibody fragment (Lange and Hunte 2002; Solmaz and Hunte 2008). In all crystal structures of the complex, the homodimeric cytochrome bc1 binds only one cytochrome c, with the binding site located on subunit cytochrome c1. Univalent cytochrome c binding is correlated with conformational changes of the Rieske protein head domain and subunit QCR6p. The interface of the complex is small. The haem moieties are centrally located in a mainly non-polar contact site that includes a cation–! interaction and is surrounded by complementary charged residues. The crystal structure is in agreement with the general architecture of the interfaces of transient redox complexes and also reveals several interesting features unique to the cytochrome bc1. On the basis of the crystal structures, an extensive thermodynamic and kinetic characterisation of the interaction was carried out in this work to challenge the static snapshot of the bound proteins in the crystal structure as the relevant physiological electron transfer. The thermodynamic parameters of the interaction between the redox partners were determined using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). The association constant for cytochrome bc1 and cytochrome c in oxidised state under physiological ionic strength of 120 mM at 25 °C, was determined to be 5 " 103 M-1 by direct ITC titration. So, the partners interact with an affinity of 200 #M. In spite of the low affinity the complex has a life time ($ = 1/koff) of 5 #second, sufficiently long to enable the theoretically calculated electron transfer rates of 1.0 " 106 to 2.6 " 107 s%1 with a lifetime ($ = 1/rate) of 1-0.04 μseconds and experimentally determined rate of 7.7 " 104 s%1 with a lifetime of 13 μseconds. The low affinity makes it difficult to ascertain the stoichiometry of binding. The enthalpy of the interaction is endothermic, which is consistent with the nature of an interface where hydrophobic interactions are dominant. The enthalpy and entropy is 3.6 kJmol-1 and 83 kJmol-1K-1, respectively. The importance of key interface residues was also investigated. The role of the interface residue G89 of cytochrome c which might have a role in the dissociation of the complex has been probed by site-directed mutagenesis. The interface contains a cation-! interaction between F230 of cytochrome bc1 and R19 of cytochrome c, which is thought to provide the specificity to the interaction between the otherwise promiscuous partners. To analyse the role of this interaction pair in electron transfer, F230L and F230W mutants were used to measure direct electron transfer rates by flash photolysis and steady state kinetics. The findings indicate that another ! system can work as functional substitution of F230, while deleting the ! system has a deleterious effect on the complex formation. The inability of F230L to achieve the transient and steady state turnover rates as wild type protein indicates a scenario where the variant achieves an altered bound state with inefficient electron transfer pathways and higher edge-to-edge distance. The role of supernumerary subunit QCR6p in complex formation was investigated by steady state kinetics measurements. Subunit QCR6p does not interact directly with cytochrome c but is positioned in such a way that it could electrostatically steer cytochrome c in a reactive ensemble. The highly acidic and disordered N-terminus of QCR6p could interact with a patch of conserved lysine residues on cytochrome c. The role of subunit QCR6p has been assessed using QCR6p deleted cytochrome bc1 and a lysine variant of cytochrome c. The results show that QCR6p not only affects the kinetics of the interaction but is also important for the stability of cytochrome bc1. The kinetic and thermodynamic data obtained during this study provide evidence for the functional importance of non-catalytic cytochrome bc1 subunit QCR6p, show that the entropy driven interaction is indeed of low affinity and highly transient in nature and indicate that the interface is well suited to ensure the high turnover of the electron transfer chain where cytochrome c interacts with multiple partners using overlapping interfaces. The suggested role of the cation-! interaction as a highly specific interaction has been validated.
- 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.