Optimized negative-staining electron microscopy for lipoprotein studies.
ABSTRACT: Negative-staining (NS), a rapid, simple and conventional technique of electron microscopy (EM), has been commonly used to initially study the morphology and structure of proteins for half a century. Certain NS protocols however can cause artifacts, especially for structurally flexible or lipid-related proteins, such as lipoproteins. Lipoproteins were often observed in the form of rouleau as lipoprotein particles appeared to be stacked together by conventional NS protocols. The flexible components of lipoproteins, i.e. lipids and amphipathic apolipoproteins, resulted in the lipoprotein structure being sensitive to the NS sample preparation parameters, such as operational procedures, salt concentrations, and the staining reagents.The most popular NS protocols that have been used to examine lipoprotein morphology and structure were reviewed.The comparisons show that an optimized NS (OpNS) protocol can eliminate the rouleau artifacts of lipoproteins, and that the lipoproteins are similar in size and shape as statistically measured from two EM methods, OpNS and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). OpNS is a high-throughput, high-contrast and high-resolution (near 1nm, but rarely better than 1nm) method which has been used to discover the mechanics of a small protein, 53kDa cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP), and the structure of an individual particle of a single protein by individual-particle electron tomography (IPET), i.e. a 14Å-resolution IgG antibody three-dimensional map.It is suggested that OpNS can be used as a general protocol to study the structure of proteins, especially highly dynamic proteins with equilibrium-fluctuating structures.
Project description:Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol. Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high-resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography. Moreover, OpNS can be a high-throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Project description:Plasma lipoprotein levels are predictors of risk for coronary artery disease. Lipoprotein structure-function relationships provide important clues that help identify the role of lipoproteins in cardiovascular disease. The compositional and conformational heterogeneity of lipoproteins are major barriers to the identification of their structures, as discovered using traditional approaches. Although electron microscopy (EM) is an alternative approach, conventional negative staining (NS) produces rouleau artifacts. In a previous study of apolipoprotein (apo)E4-containing reconstituted HDL (rHDL) particles, we optimized the NS method in a way that eliminated rouleaux. Here we report that phosphotungstic acid at high buffer salt concentrations plays a key role in rouleau formation. We also validate our protocol for analyzing the major plasma lipoprotein classes HDL, LDL, IDL, and VLDL, as well as homogeneously prepared apoA-I-containing rHDL. High-contrast EM images revealed morphology and detailed structures of lipoproteins, especially apoA-I-containing rHDL, that are amenable to three-dimensional reconstruction by single-particle analysis and electron tomography.
Project description:Plasma lipoproteins are important carriers of cholesterol and have been linked strongly to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Our study aimed to achieve fine-grained measurements of lipoprotein subpopulations such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a), or remnant lipoproteins (RLP) using electron microscopy combined with machine learning tools from microliter samples of human plasma. In the reported method, lipoproteins were absorbed onto electron microscopy (EM) support films from diluted plasma and embedded in thin films of methyl cellulose (MC) containing mixed metal stains, providing intense edge contrast. The results show that LPs have a continuous frequency distribution of sizes, extending from LDL (> 15 nm) to intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL) and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). Furthermore, mixed metal staining produces striking "positive" contrast of specific antibodies attached to lipoproteins providing quantitative data on apolipoprotein(a)-positive Lp(a) or apolipoprotein B (ApoB)-positive particles. To enable automatic particle characterization, we also demonstrated efficient segmentation of lipoprotein particles using deep learning software characterized by a Mask Region-based Convolutional Neural Networks (R-CNN) architecture with transfer learning. In future, EM and machine learning could be combined with microarray deposition and automated imaging for higher throughput quantitation of lipoproteins associated with CVD risk.
Project description:Human cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) mediates the net transfer of cholesteryl ester mass from atheroprotective high-density lipoproteins to atherogenic low-density lipoproteins by an unknown mechanism. Delineating this mechanism would be an important step toward the rational design of new CETP inhibitors for treating cardiovascular diseases. Using EM, single-particle image processing and molecular dynamics simulation, we discovered that CETP bridges a ternary complex with its N-terminal ?-barrel domain penetrating into high-density lipoproteins and its C-terminal domain interacting with low-density lipoprotein or very-low-density lipoprotein. In our mechanistic model, the CETP lipoprotein-interacting regions, which are highly mobile, form pores that connect to a hydrophobic central cavity, thereby forming a tunnel for transfer of neutral lipids from donor to acceptor lipoproteins. These new insights into CETP transfer provide a molecular basis for analyzing mechanisms for CETP inhibition.
Project description:Intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDLs), the remnants of very-low-density lipoproteins via lipolysis, are rich in cholesteryl ester and are associated with cardiovascular disease. Despite pharmacological interest in IDLs, their three-dimensional (3D) structure is still undetermined due to their variation in size, composition, and dynamic structure. To explore the 3D structure of IDLs, we reconstructed 3D density maps from individual IDL particles using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and individual-particle electron tomography (IPET, without averaging from different molecules). 3D reconstructions of IDLs revealed an unexpected polyhedral structure that deviates from the generally assumed spherical shape model (Frias et al., 2007; Olson, 1998; Shen et al., 1977). The polyhedral-shaped IDL contains a high-density shell formed by flat surfaces that are similar to those of very-low-density lipoproteins but have sharper dihedral angles between nearby surfaces. These flat surfaces would be less hydrophobic than the curved surface of mature spherical high-density lipoprotein (HDL), leading to a lower binding affinity of IDL to hydrophobic proteins (such as cholesteryl ester transfer protein) than HDL. This is the first visualization of the IDL 3D structure, which could provide fundamental clues for delineating the role of IDL in lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease.
Project description:Multiple neurodegenerative diseases are caused by the aggregation of the human α-Synuclein (α-Syn) protein. α-Syn possesses high structural plasticity and the capability of interacting with membranes. Both features are not only essential for its physiological function but also play a role in the aggregation process. Recently it has been proposed that α-Syn is able to form lipid-protein particles reminiscent of high-density lipoproteins. Here, we present a method to obtain a stable and homogeneous population of nanometer-sized particles composed of α-Syn and anionic phospholipids. These particles are called α-Syn lipoprotein (nano)particles to indicate their relationship to high-density lipoproteins formed by human apolipoproteins in vivo and of in vitro self-assembling phospholipid bilayer nanodiscs. Structural investigations of the α-Syn lipoprotein particles by circular dichroism (CD) and magic angle solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS SS-NMR) spectroscopy establish that α-Syn adopts a helical secondary structure within these particles. Based on cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) α-Syn lipoprotein particles have a defined size with a diameter of ∼23 nm. Chemical cross-linking in combination with solution-state NMR and multiangle static light scattering (MALS) of α-Syn particles reveal a high-order protein-lipid entity composed of ∼8-10 α-Syn molecules. The close resemblance in size between cross-linked in vitro-derived α-Syn lipoprotein particles and a cross-linked species of endogenous α-Syn from SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells indicates a potential functional relevance of α-Syn lipoprotein nanoparticles.
Project description:Bacterial lipoproteins/lipopeptides inducing host innate immune responses are sensed by mammalian Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). These bacterial lipoproteins are structurally divided into two groups, diacylated or triacylated lipoproteins, by the absence or presence of an amide-linked fatty acid. The presence of diacylated lipoproteins has been predicted in low-GC content gram-positive bacteria and mycoplasmas based on the absence of one modification enzyme in their genomes; however, we recently determined triacylated structures in low-GC gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus, raising questions about the actual lipoprotein structure in other low-GC content gram-positive bacteria. Here, through intensive MS analyses, we identified a novel and unique bacterial lipoprotein structure containing an N-acyl-S-monoacyl-glyceryl-cysteine (named the lyso structure) from low-GC gram-positive Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus, Streptococcus sanguinis, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Two of the purified native lyso-form lipoproteins induced proinflammatory cytokine production from mice macrophages in a TLR2-dependent and TLR1-independent manner but with a different dependence on TLR6. Additionally, two other new lipoprotein structures were identified. One is the "N-acetyl" lipoprotein structure containing N-acetyl-S-diacyl-glyceryl-cysteine, which was found in five gram-positive bacteria, including Bacillus subtilis. The N-acetyl lipoproteins induced the proinflammatory cytokines through the TLR2/6 heterodimer. The other was identified in a mycoplasma strain and is an unusual diacyl lipoprotein structure containing two amino acids before the lipid-modified cysteine residue. Taken together, our results suggest the existence of novel TLR2-stimulating lyso and N-acetyl forms of lipoproteins that are conserved in low-GC content gram-positive bacteria and provide clear evidence for the presence of yet to be identified key enzymes involved in the bacterial lipoprotein biosynthesis.
Project description:Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors are a new class of therapeutics for dyslipidemia that simultaneously improve two major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors: elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. However, the detailed molecular mechanisms underlying their efficacy are poorly understood, as are any potential mechanistic differences among the drugs in this class. Herein, we used electron microscopy (EM) to investigate the effects of three of these agents (Torcetrapib, Dalcetrapib and Anacetrapib) on CETP structure, CETP-lipoprotein complex formation and CETP-mediated cholesteryl ester (CE) transfer. We found that although none of these inhibitors altered the structure of CETP or the conformation of CETP-lipoprotein binary complexes, all inhibitors, especially Torcetrapib and Anacetrapib, increased the binding ratios of the binary complexes (e.g., HDL-CETP and LDL-CETP) and decreased the binding ratios of the HDL-CETP-LDL ternary complexes. The findings of more binary complexes and fewer ternary complexes reflect a new mechanism of inhibition: one distal end of CETP bound to the first lipoprotein would trigger a conformational change at the other distal end, thus resulting in a decreased binding ratio to the second lipoprotein and a degraded CE transfer rate among lipoproteins. Thus, we suggest a new inhibitor design that should decrease the formation of both binary and ternary complexes. Decreased concentrations of the binary complex may prevent the inhibitor was induced into cell by the tight binding of binary complexes during lipoprotein metabolism in the treatment of CVD.
Project description:Peptides show much promise as potent and selective drug candidates. Fusing peptides to a scaffold monoclonal antibody produces a conjugated antibody which has the advantages of peptide activity yet also has the pharmacokinetics determined by the scaffold antibody. However, the conjugated antibody often has poor binding affinity to antigens that may be related to unknown structural changes. The study of the conformational change is difficult by conventional techniques because structural fluctuation under equilibrium results in multiple structures co-existing. Here, we employed our two recently developed electron microscopy (EM) techniques: optimized negative-staining (OpNS) EM and individual-particle electron tomography (IPET). Two-dimensional (2D) image analyses and three-dimensional (3D) maps have shown that the domains of antibodies present an elongated peptide-conjugated conformational change, suggesting that our EM techniques may be novel tools to monitor the structural conformation changes in heterogeneous and dynamic macromolecules, such as drug delivery vehicles after pharmacological synthesis and development.
Project description:Bacterial lipoproteins possess diverse structure and functionality, ranging from bacterial physiology to pathogenic processes. As such many lipoproteins, originating from Brucella are exploited as potential vaccines to countermeasure brucellosis infection in the host. These membrane proteins are translocated from the cytoplasm to the cell membrane where they are anchored peripherally by a multifaceted targeting mechanism. Although much research has focused on the identification and classification of Brucella lipoproteins and their potential use as vaccine candidates for the treatment of Brucellosis, the underlying route for the translocation of these lipoproteins to the outer surface of the Brucella (and other pathogens) outer membrane (OM) remains mostly unknown. This is partly due to the complexity of the organism and evasive tactics used to escape the host immune system, the variation in biological structure and activity of lipoproteins, combined with the complex nature of the translocation machinery. The biosynthetic pathway of Brucella lipoproteins involves a distinct secretion system aiding translocation from the cytoplasm, where they are modified by lipidation, sorted by the lipoprotein localization machinery pathway and thereafter equipped for export to the OM. Surface localized lipoproteins in Brucella may employ a lipoprotein flippase or the ?-barrel assembly complex for translocation. This review provides an overview of the characterized Brucella OM proteins that form part of the OM, including a handful of other characterized bacterial lipoproteins and their mechanisms of translocation. Lipoprotein localization pathways in gram negative bacteria will be used as a model to identify gaps in Brucella lipoprotein localization and infer a potential pathway. Of particular interest are the dual topology lipoproteins identified in Escherichia coli and Haemophilus influenza. The localization and topology of these lipoproteins from other gram negative bacteria are well characterized and may be useful to infer a solution to better understand the translocation process in Brucella.