Pushing the size limit of de novo structure ensemble prediction guided by sparse SDSL-EPR restraints to 200 residues: The monomeric and homodimeric forms of BAX.
ABSTRACT: Structure determination remains a challenge for many biologically important proteins. In particular, proteins that adopt multiple conformations often evade crystallization in all biologically relevant states. Although computational de novo protein folding approaches often sample biologically relevant conformations, the selection of the most accurate model for different functional states remains a formidable challenge, in particular, for proteins with more than about 150 residues. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy can obtain limited structural information for proteins in well-defined biological states and thereby assist in selecting biologically relevant conformations. The present study demonstrates that de novo folding methods are able to accurately sample the folds of 192-residue long soluble monomeric Bcl-2-associated X protein (BAX). The tertiary structures of the monomeric and homodimeric forms of BAX were predicted using the primary structure as well as 25 and 11 EPR distance restraints, respectively. The predicted models were subsequently compared to respective NMR/X-ray structures of BAX. EPR restraints improve the protein-size normalized root-mean-square-deviation (RMSD100) of the most accurate models with respect to the NMR/crystal structure from 5.9Å to 3.9Å and from 5.7Å to 3.3Å, respectively. Additionally, the model discrimination is improved, which is demonstrated by an improvement of the enrichment from 5% to 15% and from 13% to 21%, respectively.
Project description:ExoU is a 74 kDa cytotoxin that undergoes substantial conformational changes as part of its function, that is, it has multiple thermodynamically stable conformations that interchange depending on its environment. Such flexible proteins pose unique challenges to structural biology: (1) not only is it often difficult to determine structures by X-ray crystallography for all biologically relevant conformations because of the flat energy landscape (2) but also experimental conditions can easily perturb the biologically relevant conformation. The first challenge can be overcome by applying orthogonal structural biology techniques that are capable of observing alternative, biologically relevant conformations. The second challenge can be addressed by determining the structure in the same biological state with two independent techniques under different experimental conditions. If both techniques converge to the same structural model, the confidence that an unperturbed biologically relevant conformation is observed increases. To this end, we determine the structure of the C-terminal domain of the effector protein, ExoU, from data obtained by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy in conjunction with site-directed spin labeling and in silico de novo structure determination. Our protocol encompasses a multimodule approach, consisting of low-resolution topology sampling, clustering, and high-resolution refinement. The resulting model was compared with an ExoU model in complex with its chaperone SpcU obtained previously by X-ray crystallography. The two models converged to a minimal RMSD100 of 3.2 Å, providing evidence that the unbound structure of ExoU matches the fold observed in complex with SpcU.
Project description:Bax is known for its pro-apoptotic role within the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. However, the mechanism for transitioning Bax from cytosolic to membrane-bound oligomer remains elusive. Previous nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) studies defined monomeric Bax as conformationally homogeneous. Yet it has recently been proposed that monomeric Bax exists in equilibrium with a minor state that is distinctly different from its NMR structure. Here, we revisited the structural analysis of Bax using methods uniquely suited for unveiling "invisible" states of proteins, namely, NMR paramagnetic relaxation enhancements and EPR double electron-electron resonance (DEER). Additionally we examined the effect of glycerol, the co-solvent of choice in DEER studies, on the structure of Bax using NMR chemical-shift perturbations and residual dipolar couplings. Based on our combined NMR and EPR results, Bax is a conformationally homogeneous protein prior to its activation.
Project description:Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a forefront actor in the transport of lipids and the maintenance of cholesterol homeostasis, and is also strongly implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Upon lipid-binding apoE adopts a conformational state that mediates the receptor-induced internalization of lipoproteins. Due to its inherent structural dynamics and the presence of lipids, the structure of the biologically active apoE remains so far poorly described. To address this issue, we developed an innovative hybrid method combining experimental data with molecular modeling and dynamics to generate comprehensive models of the lipidated apoE4 isoform. Chemical cross-linking combined with mass spectrometry provided distance restraints, characterizing the three-dimensional organization of apoE4 molecules at the surface of lipidic nanoparticles. The ensemble of spatial restraints was then rationalized in an original molecular modeling approach to generate monomeric models of apoE4 that advocated the existence of two alternative conformations. These two models point towards an activation mechanism of apoE4 relying on a regulation of the accessibility of its receptor binding region. Further, molecular dynamics simulations of the dimerized and lipidated apoE4 monomeric conformations revealed an elongation of the apoE N-terminal domain, whereby helix 4 is rearranged, together with Arg172, into a proper orientation essential for lipoprotein receptor association. Overall, our results show how apoE4 adapts its conformation for the recognition of the low density lipoprotein receptor and we propose a novel mechanism of activation for apoE4 that is based on accessibility and remodeling of the receptor binding region.
Project description:For many membrane proteins, the determination of their topology remains a challenge for methods like X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy has evolved as an alternative technique to study structure and dynamics of membrane proteins. The present study demonstrates the feasibility of membrane protein topology determination using limited EPR distance and accessibility measurements. The BCL::MP-Fold (BioChemical Library membrane protein fold) algorithm assembles secondary structure elements (SSEs) in the membrane using a Monte Carlo Metropolis (MCM) approach. Sampled models are evaluated using knowledge-based potential functions and agreement with the EPR data and a knowledge-based energy function. Twenty-nine membrane proteins of up to 696 residues are used to test the algorithm. The RMSD100 value of the most accurate model is better than 8 Å for 27, better than 6 Å for 22, and better than 4 Å for 15 of the 29 proteins, demonstrating the algorithms' ability to sample the native topology. The average enrichment could be improved from 1.3 to 2.5, showing the improved discrimination power by using EPR data.
Project description:The use of pressure is an advantageous approach to the study of protein structure and dynamics because it can shift the equilibrium populations of protein conformations toward higher energy states that are not of sufficient population to be observable at atmospheric pressure. Recently, the Hubbell group at the University of California, Los Angeles, reintroduced the application of high pressure to the study of proteins by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. This methodology is possible using X-band EPR spectroscopy due to advances in pressure intensifiers, sample cells, and resonators. In addition to the commercial availability of the pressure generation and sample cells by Pressure Biosciences Inc., a five-loop-four-gap resonator required for the initial high pressure EPR spectroscopy experiments by the Hubbell group, and those reported here, was designed by James S. Hyde and built and modified at the National Biomedical EPR Center. With these technological advances, we determined the effect of pressure on the essential periplasmic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) transport protein from Escherichia coli, LptA, and one of its binding partners, LptC. LptA unfolds from the N-terminus to the C-terminus, binding of LPS does not appreciably stabilize the protein under pressure, and monomeric LptA unfolds somewhat more readily than oligomeric LptA upon pressurization to 2 kbar. LptC exhibits a fold and relative lack of stability upon LPS binding similar to LptA, yet adopts an altered, likely monomeric, folded conformation under pressure with only its C-terminus unraveling. The pressure-induced changes likely correlate with functional changes associated with binding and transport of LPS.
Project description:Bax is a Bcl-2 protein critical for apoptosis induction. In healthy cells, Bax is mostly a monomeric, cytosolic protein, while upon apoptosis initiation it inserts into the outer mitochondrial membrane, oligomerizes, and forms pores that release proapoptotic factors like Cytochrome c into the cytosol. The structures of active Bax and its homolog Bak are only partially understood and the topology of the proteins with respect to the membrane bilayer is controversially described in the literature. Here, we systematically review and examine the protein-membrane, protein-water, and protein-protein contacts of the nine helices of active Bax and Bak, and add a new set of topology data obtained by fluorescence and EPR methods. We conclude based on the consistent part of the datasets that the core/dimerization domain of Bax (Bak) is water exposed with only helices 4 and 5 in membrane contact, whereas the piercing/latch domain is in peripheral membrane contact, with helix 9 being transmembrane. Among the available structural models, those considering the dimerization/core domain at the rim of a toroidal pore are the most plausible to describe the active state of the proteins, although the structural flexibility of the piercing/latch domain does not allow unambiguous discrimination between the existing models.
Project description:When experimental protein NMR data are too sparse to apply traditional structure determination techniques, de novo protein structure prediction methods can be leveraged. Here, we describe the incorporation of NMR restraints into the protein structure prediction algorithm BCL::Fold. The method assembles discreet secondary structure elements using a Monte Carlo sampling algorithm with a consensus knowledge-based energy function. New components were introduced into the energy function to accommodate chemical shift, nuclear Overhauser effect, and residual dipolar coupling data. In particular, since side chains are not explicitly modeled during the minimization process, a knowledge based potential was created to relate experimental side chain proton-proton distances to C? -C? distances. In a benchmark test of 67 proteins of known structure with the incorporation of sparse NMR restraints, the correct topology was sampled in 65 cases, with an average best model RMSD100 of 3.4 ± 1.3 Å versus 6.0 ± 2.0 Å produced with the de novo method. Additionally, the correct topology is present in the best scoring 1% of models in 61 cases. The benchmark set includes both soluble and membrane proteins with up to 565 residues, indicating the method is robust and applicable to large and membrane proteins that are less likely to produce rich NMR datasets.
Project description:As an intrinsically disordered protein, monomeric alpha-synuclein (aSyn) occupies a large conformational space. Certain conformations lead to aggregation prone and non-aggregation prone intermediates, but identifying these within the dynamic ensemble of monomeric conformations is difficult. Herein, we used the biologically relevant calcium ion to investigate the conformation of monomeric aSyn in relation to its aggregation propensity. We observe that the more exposed the N-terminus and the beginning of the NAC region of aSyn are, the more aggregation prone monomeric aSyn conformations become. Solvent exposure of the N-terminus of aSyn occurs upon release of C-terminus interactions when calcium binds, but the level of exposure and aSyn's aggregation propensity is sequence and post translational modification dependent. Identifying aggregation prone conformations of monomeric aSyn and the environmental conditions they form under will allow us to design new therapeutics targeted to the monomeric protein.
Project description:A hybrid protein structure determination approach combining sparse Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) distance restraints and Rosetta de novo protein folding has been previously demonstrated to yield high quality models (Alexander et al. (2008)). However, widespread application of this methodology to proteins of unknown structures is hindered by the lack of a general strategy to place spin label pairs in the primary sequence. In this work, we report the development of an algorithm that optimally selects spin labeling positions for the purpose of distance measurements by EPR. For the ?-helical subdomain of T4 lysozyme (T4L), simulated restraints that maximize sequence separation between the two spin labels while simultaneously ensuring pairwise connectivity of secondary structure elements yielded vastly improved models by Rosetta folding. 54% of all these models have the correct fold compared to only 21% and 8% correctly folded models when randomly placed restraints or no restraints are used, respectively. Moreover, the improvements in model quality require a limited number of optimized restraints, which is determined by the pairwise connectivities of T4L ?-helices. The predicted improvement in Rosetta model quality was verified by experimental determination of distances between spin labels pairs selected by the algorithm. Overall, our results reinforce the rationale for the combined use of sparse EPR distance restraints and de novo folding. By alleviating the experimental bottleneck associated with restraint selection, this algorithm sets the stage for extending computational structure determination to larger, traditionally elusive protein topologies of critical structural and biochemical importance.