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Preview: Acta Crystallographica Section D

Acta Crystallographica Section D

Acta Crystallographica Section D: Biological Crystallography welcomes the submission of articles covering any aspect of structural biology, with a particular emphasis on the structures of biological macromolecules and the methods used to determine them. R

Published: 2016-11-30


On the interpretation of reflectivity data from lipid bilayers in terms of molecular-dynamics models


Neutron and X-ray reflectivity of model membranes is increasingly used as a tool for the study of membrane structures and dynamics. As the systems under study become more complex, and as long, all-atom molecular-dynamics (MD) simulations of membranes become more available, there is increasing interest in the use of MD simulations in the analysis of reflectometry data from membranes. In order to perform this, it is necessary to produce a model of the complete interface, including not only the MD-derived structure of the membrane, but also the supporting substrate and any other interfacial layers that may be present. Here, it is shown that this is best performed by first producing a model of the occupied volume across the entire interface, and then converting this into a scattering length density (SLD) profile, rather than by splicing together the separate SLD profiles from the substrate layers and the membrane, since the latter approach can lead to discontinuities in the SLD profile and subsequent artefacts in the reflectivity calculation. It is also shown how the MD-derived membrane structure should be corrected to account for lower than optimal coverage and out-of-plane membrane fluctuations. Finally, the method of including the entire membrane structure in the reflectivity calculation is compared with an alternative approach in which the membrane components are approximated by functional forms, with only the component volumes being extracted from the simulation. It is shown that using only the fragment volumes is insufficient for a typical neutron data set of a single deuteration measured at several water contrasts, and that either weighting the model by including more structural information from the fit, or a larger data set involving a range of deuterations, are required to satisfactorily define the problem.

Molecular symmetry-constrained systematic search approach to structure solution of the coiled-coil SRGAP2 F-BARx domain


SRGAP2 (Slit–Robo GTPase-activating protein 2) is a cytoplasmic protein found to be involved in neuronal branching, restriction of neuronal migration and restriction of the length and density of dendritic postsynaptic spines. The extended F-BAR (F-BARx) domain of SRGAP2 generates membrane protrusions when expressed in COS-7 cells, while most F-BARs induce the opposite effect: membrane invaginations. As a first step to understand this discrepancy, the F-BARx domain of SRGAP2 was isolated and crystallized after co-expression with the carboxy domains of the protein. Diffraction data were collected from two significantly non-isomorphous crystals in the same monoclinic C2 space group. A correct molecular-replacment solution was obtained by applying a molecular symmetry-constrained systematic search approach that took advantage of the conserved biological symmetry of the F-BAR domains. It is shown that similar approaches can solve other F-BAR structures that were previously determined by experimental phasing. Diffraction data were reprocessed with a high-resolution cutoff of 2.2 Å, chosen using less strict statistical criteria. This has improved the outcome of multi-crystal averaging and other density-modification procedures.

Improved radiation dose efficiency in solution SAXS using a sheath flow sample environment


Radiation damage is a major limitation to synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering analysis of biomacromolecules. Flowing the sample during exposure helps to reduce the problem, but its effectiveness in the laminar-flow regime is limited by slow flow velocity at the walls of sample cells. To overcome this limitation, the coflow method was developed, where the sample flows through the centre of its cell surrounded by a flow of matched buffer. The method permits an order-of-magnitude increase of X-ray incident flux before sample damage, improves measurement statistics and maintains low sample concentration limits. The method also efficiently handles sample volumes of a few microlitres, can increase sample throughput, is intrinsically resistant to capillary fouling by sample and is suited to static samples and size-exclusion chromatography applications. The method unlocks further potential of third-generation synchrotron beamlines to facilitate new and challenging applications in solution scattering.

The N14 anti-afamin antibody Fab: a rare VL1 CDR glycosylation, crystallographic re-sequencing, molecular plasticity and conservative versus enthusiastic modelling


The monoclonal antibody N14 is used as a detection antibody in ELISA kits for the human glycoprotein afamin, a member of the albumin family, which has recently gained interest in the capture and stabilization of Wnt signalling proteins, and for its role in metabolic syndrome and papillary thyroid carcinoma. As a rare occurrence, the N14 Fab is N-glycosylated at Asn26L at the onset of the VL1 antigen-binding loop, with the α-1–6 core fucosylated complex glycan facing out of the L1 complementarity-determining region. The crystal structures of two non-apparent (pseudo) isomorphous crystals of the N14 Fab were analyzed, which differ significantly in the elbow angles, thereby cautioning against the overinterpretation of domain movements upon antigen binding. In addition, the map quality at 1.9 Å resolution was sufficient to crystallographically re-sequence the variable VL and VH domains and to detect discrepancies in the hybridoma-derived sequence. Finally, a conservatively refined parsimonious model is presented and its statistics are compared with those from a less conservatively built model that has been modelled more enthusiastically. Improvements to the PDB validation reports affecting ligands, clashscore and buried surface calculations are suggested.

Molecular determinants of substrate specificity revealed by the structure of Clostridium thermocellum arabinofuranosidase 43A from glycosyl hydrolase family 43 subfamily 16


The recent division of the large glycoside hydrolase family 43 (GH43) into subfamilies offers a renewed opportunity to develop structure–function studies aimed at clarifying the molecular determinants of substrate specificity in carbohydrate-degrading enzymes. α-l-Arabinofuranosidases (EC remove arabinose side chains from heteropolysaccharides such as xylan and arabinan. However, there is some evidence suggesting that arabinofuranosidases are substrate-specific, being unable to display a debranching activity on different polysaccharides. Here, the structure of Clostridium thermocellum arabinofuranosidase 43A (CtAbf43A), which has been shown to act in the removal of arabinose side chains from arabinoxylan but not from pectic arabinan, is reported. CtAbf43A belongs to GH43 subfamily 16, the members of which have a restricted capacity to attack xylans. The crystal structure of CtAbf43A comprises a five-bladed β-propeller fold typical of GH43 enzymes. CtAbf43A displays a highly compact architecture compatible with its high thermostability. Analysis of CtAbf43A along with the other member of GH43 subfamily 16 with known structure, the Bacillus subtilis arabinofuranosidase BsAXH-m2,3, suggests that the specificity of subfamily 16 for arabinoxylan is conferred by a long surface substrate-binding cleft that is complementary to the xylan backbone. The lack of a curved-shaped carbohydrate-interacting platform precludes GH43 subfamily 16 enzymes from interacting with the nonlinear arabinan scaffold and therefore from deconstructing this polysaccharide.

The ER stress sensor PERK luminal domain functions as a molecular chaperone to interact with misfolded proteins


PERK is one of the major sensor proteins which can detect the protein-folding imbalance generated by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. It remains unclear how the sensor protein PERK is activated by ER stress. It has been demonstrated that the PERK luminal domain can recognize and selectively interact with misfolded proteins but not native proteins. Moreover, the PERK luminal domain may function as a molecular chaperone to directly bind to and suppress the aggregation of a number of misfolded model proteins. The data strongly support the hypothesis that the PERK luminal domain can interact directly with misfolded proteins to induce ER stress signaling. To illustrate the mechanism by which the PERK luminal domain interacts with misfolded proteins, the crystal structure of the human PERK luminal domain was determined to 3.2 Å resolution. Two dimers of the PERK luminal domain constitute a tetramer in the asymmetric unit. Superimposition of the PERK luminal domain molecules indicated that the β-sandwich domain could adopt multiple conformations. It is hypothesized that the PERK luminal domain may utilize its flexible β-sandwich domain to recognize and interact with a broad range of misfolded proteins.

Structural analysis of the bright monomeric yellow-green fluorescent protein mNeonGreen obtained by directed evolution


Until recently, genes coding for homologues of the autofluorescent protein GFP had only been identified in marine organisms from the phyla Cnidaria and Arthropoda. New fluorescent-protein genes have now been found in the phylum Chordata, coding for particularly bright oligomeric fluorescent proteins such as the tetrameric yellow fluorescent protein lanYFP from Branchiostoma lanceolatum. A successful monomerization attempt led to the development of the bright yellow-green fluorescent protein mNeonGreen. The structures of lanYFP and mNeonGreen have been determined and compared in order to rationalize the directed evolution process leading from a bright, tetrameric to a still bright, monomeric fluorescent protein. An unusual discolouration of crystals of mNeonGreen was observed after X-ray data collection, which was investigated using a combination of X-ray crystallography and UV–visible absorption and Raman spectroscopies, revealing the effects of specific radiation damage in the chromophore cavity. It is shown that X-rays rapidly lead to the protonation of the phenolate O atom of the chromophore and to the loss of its planarity at the methylene bridge.