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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.