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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: 2017-07-01


1.8 Å resolution crystal structure of the carbapenem intrinsic resistance protein CarF


The natural production of the β-lactam antibiotic carbapenem in bacteria involves a group of enzymes that form a synthetic pathway as well as proteins that protect the cell from self-intoxification by the products. Here, the crystal structure of CarF, one of the two proteins that confer resistance to synthesis of the antibiotic in the host organism, is reported. The CarF fold places it within a widely occurring structural family, indicating an ancient structural origin from which the resistance function has been derived.

Crystal structure of Yersinia pestis virulence factor YfeA reveals two polyspecific metal-binding sites


Gram-negative bacteria use siderophores, outer membrane receptors, inner membrane transporters and substrate-binding proteins (SBPs) to transport transition metals through the periplasm. The SBPs share a similar protein fold that has undergone significant structural evolution to communicate with a variety of differentially regulated transporters in the cell. In Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, YfeA (YPO2439, y1897), an SBP, is important for full virulence during mammalian infection. To better understand the role of YfeA in infection, crystal structures were determined under several environmental conditions with respect to transition-metal levels. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and anomalous X-ray scattering data show that YfeA is polyspecific and can alter its substrate specificity. In minimal-media experiments, YfeA crystals grown after iron supplementation showed a threefold increase in iron fluorescence emission over the iron fluorescence emission from YfeA crystals grown from nutrient-rich conditions, and YfeA crystals grown after manganese supplementation during overexpression showed a fivefold increase in manganese fluorescence emission over the manganese fluorescence emission from YfeA crystals grown from nutrient-rich conditions. In all experiments, the YfeA crystals produced the strongest fluorescence emission from zinc and could not be manipulated otherwise. Additionally, this report documents the discovery of a novel surface metal-binding site that prefers to chelate zinc but can also bind manganese. Flexibility across YfeA crystal forms in three loops and a helix near the buried metal-binding site suggest that a structural rearrangement is required for metal loading and unloading.

Probing the structural basis of oxygen binding in a cofactor-independent dioxygenase


The enzyme DpgC is included in the small family of cofactor-independent dioxygenases. The chemistry of DpgC is uncommon as the protein binds and utilizes dioxygen without the aid of a metal or organic cofactor. Previous structural and biochemical studies identified the substrate-binding mode and the components of the active site that are important in the catalytic mechanism. In addition, the results delineated a putative binding pocket and migration pathway for the co-substrate dioxygen. Here, structural biology is utilized, along with site-directed mutagenesis, to probe the assigned dioxygen-binding pocket. The key residues implicated in dioxygen trafficking were studied to probe the process of binding, activation and chemistry. The results support the proposed chemistry and provide insight into the general mechanism of dioxygen binding and activation.

Rapid cadmium SAD phasing at the standard wavelength (1 Å)


Cadmium ions can be effectively used to promote crystal growth and for experimental phasing. Here, the use of cadmium ions as a suitable anomalous scatterer at the standard wavelength of 1 Å is demonstrated. The structures of three different proteins were determined using cadmium single-wavelength anomalous dispersion (SAD) phasing. Owing to the strong anomalous signal, the structure of lysozyme could be automatically phased and built using a very low anomalous multiplicity (1.1) and low-completeness (77%) data set. Additionally, it is shown that cadmium ions can easily substitute divalent ions in ATP–divalent cation complexes. This property could be generally applied for phasing experiments of a wide range of nucleotide-binding proteins. Improvements in crystal growth and quality, good anomalous signal at standard wavelengths (i.e. no need to change photon energy) and rapid phasing and refinement using a single data set are benefits that should allow cadmium ions to be widely used for experimental phasing.

Octamer formation in lysozyme solutions at the initial crystallization stage detected by small-angle neutron scattering


Solutions of lysozyme in heavy water were studied by small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) at concentrations of 40, 20 and 10 mg ml−1 with and without the addition of precipitant, and at temperatures of 10, 20 and 30°C. In addition to the expected protein monomers, dimeric and octameric species were identified in solutions at the maximum concentration and close to the optimal conditions for crystallization. An optimal temperature for octamer formation was identified and both deviation from this temperature and a reduction in protein concentration led to a significant decrease in the volume fractions of octamers detected. In the absence of precipitant, only monomers and a minor fraction of dimers are present in solution.

DNA conformational transitions inferred from re-evaluation of m|Fo| − D|Fc| electron-density maps


Conformational flexibility of DNA plays important roles in biological processes such as transcriptional regulation and DNA packaging etc. To understand the mechanisms of these processes, it is important to analyse when, where and how DNA shows conformational variations. Recent analyses have indicated that conventional refinement methods do not always provide accurate models of crystallographic heterogeneities and that some information on polymorphism has been overlooked in previous crystallographic studies. In the present study, the m|Fo| − D|Fc| electron-density maps of double-helical DNA crystal structures were calculated at a resolution equal to or better than 1.5 Å and potential conformational transitions were found in 27% of DNA phosphates. Detailed analyses of the m|Fo| − D|Fc| peaks indicated that some of these unassigned densities correspond to ZI ↔ ZII or A/B → BI conformational transitions. A relationship was also found between ZI/ZII transitions and metal coordination in Z-DNA from the detected peaks. The present study highlights that frequent transitions of phosphate backbones occur even in crystals and that some of these transitions are affected by the local molecular environment.

Seeing but not believing: the structure of glycerol dehydrogenase initially assumed to be the structure of a survival protein from Salmonella typhimurium


The determination of the crystal structure of a mutant protein using phases based on a previously determined crystal structure of the wild-type protein is often a straightforward molecular-replacement protocol. Such a structure determination may be difficult if there are large-scale structural differences between the wild-type and mutant proteins. In this manuscript, an interesting case is presented of the unintentional crystallization of a contaminant protein which shared some structural features with the presumed target protein, leading to difficulties in obtaining a completely satisfactory molecular-replacement structure solution. It was not immediately evident that the initial structure solution was incorrect owing to the poor quality of the X-ray diffraction data and low resolution. The structure was subsequently determined by improving the quality of the data and following a sequence-independent MarathonMR protocol. The structure corresponded to that of glycerol dehydrogenase, which crystallized as a contaminant, instead of the presumed mutant of a survival protein encoded by Salmonella typhimurium. The reasons why a solution that appeared to be reasonable was obtained with an incorrect protein model are discussed. The results presented here show that a degree of caution is warranted when handling large-scale structure-determination projects.

Factors affecting the amplitude of the τ angle in proteins: a revisitation


The protein folded state is the result of the fine balance of a variety of different forces. Even minor structural perturbations may have a significant impact on the stability of these macromolecules. Studies carried out in recent decades have led to the convergent view that proteins are endowed with a flexible spine. One of the open issues related to protein local backbone geometry is the identification of the factors that influence the amplitude of the τ (N—Cα—C) angle. Here, statistical analyses performed on an updated ensemble of X-ray protein structures by dissecting the contribution of the major factors that can potentially influence the local backbone geometry of proteins are reported. The data clearly indicate that the local backbone conformation has a prominent impact on the modulation of the τ angle. Therefore, a proper assessment of the impact of the other potential factors can only be appropriately evaluated when small (φ, ψ) regions are considered. Here, it is shown that when the contribution of the backbone conformation is removed by considering small (φ, ψ) areas, an impact of secondary structure, as defined by DSSP, and/or the residue type on τ is still detectable, although to a limited extent. Indeed, distinct τ-value distributions are detected for Pro/Gly and β-branched (Ile/Val) residues. The key role of the local backbone conformation highlighted here supports the use of variable local backbone geometry in protein refinement protocols.