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Preview: Acta Crystallographica Section F

Acta Crystallographica Section F

Acta Crystallographica Section F: Structural Biology Communications is a rapid all-electronic journal, which provides a home for short communications on the crystallization and structure of biological macromolecules. Structures determined through structur

Published: 2017-11-19


Structure of the Bacillus anthracis dTDP-l-rhamnose-biosynthetic enzyme dTDP-4-dehydrorhamnose reductase (RfbD)


Bacillus anthracis is the causative agent of the deadly disease Anthrax. Its use in bioterrorism and its ability to re-emerge have brought renewed interest in this organism. B. anthracis is a Gram-positive bacterium that adds l-rhamnose to its cell-wall polysaccharides using the activated donor dTDP-β-l-rhamnose. The enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the activated donor are absent in humans, which make them ideal targets for therapeutic development to combat pathogens. Here, the 2.65 Å resolution crystal structure of the fourth enzyme in the dTDP-β-l-rhamnose-biosynthetic pathway from B. anthracis, dTDP-4-dehydro-β-l-rhamnose reductase (RfbD), is presented in complex with NADP+. This enzyme catalyzes the reduction of dTDP-4-dehydro-β-l-rhamnose to dTDP-β-l-rhamnose. Although the protein was co-crystallized in the presence of Mg2+, the protein lacks the conserved residues that coordinate Mg2+.

Crystal structure of a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate-dependent aspartate racemase derived from the bivalve mollusc Scapharca broughtonii


Aspartate racemase (AspR) is a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP)-dependent enzyme that is responsible for d-aspartate biosynthesis in vivo. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report an X-ray crystal structure of a PLP-dependent AspR, which was resolved at 1.90 Å resolution. The AspR derived from the bivalve mollusc Scapharca broughtonii (SbAspR) is a type II PLP-dependent enzyme that is similar to serine racemase (SR) in that SbAspR catalyzes both racemization and dehydration. Structural comparison of SbAspR and SR shows a similar arrangement of the active-site residues and nucleotide-binding site, but a different orientation of the metal-binding site. Superposition of the structures of SbAspR and of rat SR bound to the inhibitor malonate reveals that Arg140 recognizes the β-carboxyl group of the substrate aspartate in SbAspR. It is hypothesized that the aromatic proline interaction between the domains, which favours the closed form of SbAspR, influences the arrangement of Arg140 at the active site.

A low-cost method for visible fluorescence imaging


A wide variety of crystallization solutions are screened to establish conditions that promote the growth of a diffraction-quality crystal. Screening these conditions requires the assessment of many crystallization plates for the presence of crystals. Automated systems for screening and imaging are very expensive. A simple approach to imaging trace fluorescently labeled protein crystals in crystallization plates has been devised, and can be implemented at a cost as low as $50. The proteins β-lactoglobulin B, trypsin and purified concanavalin A (ConA) were trace fluorescently labeled using three different fluorescent probes: Cascade Yellow (CY), Carboxyrhodamine 6G (CR) and Pacific Blue (PB). A crystallization screening plate was set up using β-lactoglobulin B labeled with CR, trypsin labeled with CY, ConA labeled with each probe, and a mixture consisting of 50% PB-labeled ConA and 50% CR-labeled ConA. The wells of these plates were imaged using a commercially available macro-imaging lens attachment for smart devices that have a camera. Several types of macro lens attachments were tested with smartphones and tablets. Images with the highest quality were obtained with an iPhone 6S and an AUKEY Ora 10× macro lens. Depending upon the fluorescent probe employed and its Stokes shift, a light-emitting diode or a laser diode was used for excitation. An emission filter was used for the imaging of protein crystals labeled with CR and crystals with two-color fluorescence. This approach can also be used with microscopy systems commonly used to observe crystallization plates.

Structure of the Bacillus anthracis dTDP-l-rhamnose-biosynthetic enzyme dTDP-4-dehydrorhamnose 3,5-epimerase (RfbC)


The exosporium layer of Bacillus anthracis spores is rich in l-rhamnose, a common bacterial cell-wall component, which often contributes to the virulence of pathogens by increasing their adherence and immune evasion. The biosynthetic pathway used to form the activated l-rhamnose donor dTDP-l-rhamnose consists of four enzymes (RfbA, RfbB, RfbC and RfbD) and is an attractive drug target because there are no homologs in mammals. It was found that co-purifying and screening RfbC (dTDP-6-deoxy-d-xylo-4-hexulose 3,5-epimerase) from B. anthracis in the presence of the other three B. anthracis enzymes of the biosynthetic pathway yielded crystals that were suitable for data collection. RfbC crystallized as a dimer and its structure was determined at 1.63 Å resolution. Two different ligands were bound in the protein structure: pyrophosphate in the active site of one monomer and dTDP in the other monomer. A structural comparison with RfbC homologs showed that the key active-site residues are conserved across kingdoms.

Swit_4259, an acetoacetate decarboxylase-like enzyme from Sphingomonas wittichii RW1


The Gram-negative bacterium Sphingomonas wittichii RW1 is notable for its ability to metabolize a variety of aromatic hydrocarbons. Not surprisingly, the S. wittichii genome contains a number of putative aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading gene clusters. One of these includes an enzyme of unknown function, Swit_4259, which belongs to the acetoacetate decarboxylase-like superfamily (ADCSF). Here, it is reported that Swit_4259 is a small (28.8 kDa) tetrameric ADCSF enzyme that, unlike the prototypical members of the superfamily, does not have acetoacetate decarboxylase activity. Structural characterization shows that the tertiary structure of Swit_4259 is nearly identical to that of the true decarboxylases, but there are important differences in the fine structure of the Swit_4259 active site that lead to a divergence in function. In addition, it is shown that while it is a poor substrate, Swit_4259 can catalyze the hydration of 2-oxo-hex-3-enedioate to yield 2-oxo-4-hydroxyhexanedioate. It is also demonstrated that Swit_4259 has pyruvate aldolase-dehydratase activity, a feature that is common to all of the family V ADCSF enzymes studied to date. The enzymatic activity, together with the genomic context, suggests that Swit_4259 may be a hydratase with a role in the metabolism of an as-yet-unknown hydrocarbon. These data have implications for engineering bioremediation pathways to degrade specific pollutants, as well as structure–function relationships within the ADCSF in general.

Crystal structure of an anti-idiotype variable lymphocyte receptor


Variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs), the leucine-rich repeat (LRR)-based antigen receptors of jawless fish, have great utility in a wide variety of biochemical and biological applications, similar to classical Ig-based antibodies. VLR-based reagents may be particularly useful when traditional antibodies are not available. An anti-idiotype lamprey VLR, VLR39, has previously been identified that recognizes the heavy-chain CDR3 of the B-cell receptor (BCR) of a leukemic clone from a patient with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). VLR39 was used successfully to track the re-emergence of this clone in the patient following chemotherapy. Here, the crystal structure of VLR39 is presented at 1.5 Å resolution and compared with those of other protein-specific VLRs. VLR39 adopts a curved solenoid fold and exhibits substantial structural similarity to other protein-binding VLRs. VLR39 has a short LRRCT loop that protrudes outwards away from the concave face and is similar to those of its protein-specific VLR counterparts. Analysis of the VLR39–BCR interaction by size-exclusion chromatography and biolayer interferometry using the scFv version of the BCR confirms that VLR39 recognizes the BCR Fv region. Such VLR-based reagents may be useful for identifying and monitoring leukemia in CLL patients and in other clinical diagnostic assays.

Meditope–Fab interaction: threading the hole


Meditope, a cyclic 12-residue peptide, binds to a unique binding side between the light and heavy chains of the cetuximab Fab. In an effort to improve the affinity of the interaction, it was sought to extend the side chain of Arg8 in the meditope, a residue that is accessible from the other side of the meditope binding site, in order to increase the number of interactions. These modifications included an n-butyl and n-octyl extension as well as hydroxyl, amine and carboxyl substitutions. The atomic structures of the complexes and the binding kinetics for each modified meditope indicated that each extension threaded through the Fab `hole' and that the carboxyethylarginine substitution makes a favorable interaction with the Fab, increasing the half-life of the complex by threefold compared with the unmodified meditope. Taken together, these studies provide a basis for the design of additional modifications to enhance the overall affinity of this unique interaction.