Molecular chaperones: small heat shock proteins in the limelight.
Small heat shock proteins have been the Cinderellas of the molecular chaperone world, but now the crystal structure of a small heat shock protein has been solved and mutation of two human homologues implicated in genetic disease. Intermediate filaments appear to be one of the key targets of their chaperone activity. (+info
Crystal structure of MHC class II-associated p41 Ii fragment bound to cathepsin L reveals the structural basis for differentiation between cathepsins L and S.
The lysosomal cysteine proteases cathepsins S and L play crucial roles in the degradation of the invariant chain during maturation of MHC class II molecules and antigen processing. The p41 form of the invariant chain includes a fragment which specifically inhibits cathepsin L but not S. The crystal structure of the p41 fragment, a homologue of the thyroglobulin type-1 domains, has been determined at 2.0 A resolution in complex with cathepsin L. The structure of the p41 fragment demonstrates a novel fold, consisting of two subdomains, each stabilized by disulfide bridges. The first subdomain is an alpha-helix-beta-strand arrangement, whereas the second subdomain has a predominantly beta-strand arrangement. The wedge shape and three-loop arrangement of the p41 fragment bound to the active site cleft of cathepsin L are reminiscent of the inhibitory edge of cystatins, thus demonstrating the first example of convergent evolution observed in cysteine protease inhibitors. However, the different fold of the p41 fragment results in additional contacts with the top of the R-domain of the enzymes, which defines the specificity-determining S2 and S1' substrate-binding sites. This enables inhibitors based on the thyroglobulin type-1 domain fold, in contrast to the rather non-selective cystatins, to exhibit specificity for their target enzymes. (+info
Cryo-electron microscopy structure of an SH3 amyloid fibril and model of the molecular packing.
Amyloid fibrils are assemblies of misfolded proteins and are associated with pathological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and the spongiform encephalopathies. In the amyloid diseases, a diverse group of normally soluble proteins self-assemble to form insoluble fibrils. X-ray fibre diffraction studies have shown that the protofilament cores of fibrils formed from the various proteins all contain a cross-beta-scaffold, with beta-strands perpendicular and beta-sheets parallel to the fibre axis. We have determined the threedimensional structure of an amyloid fibril, formed by the SH3 domain of phosphatidylinositol-3'-kinase, using cryo-electron microscopy and image processing at 25 A resolution. The structure is a double helix of two protofilament pairs wound around a hollow core, with a helical crossover repeat of approximately 600 A and an axial subunit repeat of approximately 27 A. The native SH3 domain is too compact to fit into the fibril density, and must unfold to adopt a longer, thinner shape in the amyloid form. The 20x40-A protofilaments can only accommodate one pair of flat beta-sheets stacked against each other, with very little inter-strand twist. We propose a model for the polypeptide packing as a basis for understanding the structure of amyloid fibrils in general. (+info
Structure of CD94 reveals a novel C-type lectin fold: implications for the NK cell-associated CD94/NKG2 receptors.
The crystal structure of the extracellular domain of CD94, a component of the CD94/NKG2 NK cell receptor, has been determined to 2.6 A resolution, revealing a unique variation of the C-type lectin fold. In this variation, the second alpha helix, corresponding to residues 102-112, is replaced by a loop, the putative carbohydrate-binding site is significantly altered, and the Ca2+-binding site appears nonfunctional. This structure may serve as a prototype for other NK cell receptors such as Ly-49, NKR-P1, and CD69. The CD94 dimer observed in the crystal has an extensive hydrophobic interface that stabilizes the loop conformation of residues 102-112. The formation of this dimer reveals a putative ligand-binding region for HLA-E and suggests how NKG2 interacts with CD94. (+info
Calorimetric studies on the stability of the ribosome-inactivating protein abrin II: effects of pH and ligand binding.
The effects of pH and ligand binding on the stability of abrin II, a heterodimeric ribosome-inactivating protein, and its subunits have been studied using high-sensitivity differential scanning calorimetry. At pH7.2, the calorimetric scan consists of two transitions, which correspond to the B-subunit [transition temperature (Tm) 319.2K] and the A-subunit (Tm 324.6K) of abrin II, as also confirmed by studies on the isolated A-subunit. The calorimetric enthalpy of the isolated A-subunit of abrin II is similar to that of the higher-temperature transition. However, its Tm is 2.4K lower than that of the higher-temperature peak of intact abrin II. This indicates that there is some interaction between the two subunits. Abrin II displays increased stability as the pH is decreased to 4.5. Lactose increases the Tm values as well as the enthalpies of both transitions. This effect is more pronounced at pH7.2 than at pH4.5. This suggests that ligand binding stabilizes the native conformation of abrin II. Analysis of the B-subunit transition temperature as a function of lactose concentration suggests that two lactose molecules bind to one molecule of abrin II at pH7.2. The presence of two binding sites for lactose on the abrin II molecule is also indicated by isothermal titration calorimetry. Plotting DeltaHm (the molar transition enthalpy at Tm) against Tm yielded values for DeltaCp (change in excess heat capacity) of 27+/-2 kJ.mol-1.K-1 for the B-subunit and 20+/-1 kJ.mol-1.K-1 for the A-subunit. These values have been used to calculate the thermal stability of abrin II and to surmise the mechanism of its transmembrane translocation. (+info
Melatonin biosynthesis: the structure of serotonin N-acetyltransferase at 2.5 A resolution suggests a catalytic mechanism.
Conversion of serotonin to N-acetylserotonin, the precursor of the circadian neurohormone melatonin, is catalyzed by serotonin N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) in a reaction requiring acetyl coenzyme A (AcCoA). AANAT is a globular protein consisting of an eight-stranded beta sheet flanked by five alpha helices; a conserved motif in the center of the beta sheet forms the cofactor binding site. Three polypeptide loops converge above the AcCoA binding site, creating a hydrophobic funnel leading toward the cofactor and serotonin binding sites in the protein interior. Two conserved histidines not found in other NATs are located at the bottom of the funnel in the active site, suggesting a catalytic mechanism for acetylation involving imidazole groups acting as general acid/base catalysts. (+info
Chaperone activity with a redox switch.
Hsp33, a member of a newly discovered heat shock protein family, was found to be a very potent molecular chaperone. Hsp33 is distinguished from all other known molecular chaperones by its mode of functional regulation. Its activity is redox regulated. Hsp33 is a cytoplasmically localized protein with highly reactive cysteines that respond quickly to changes in the redox environment. Oxidizing conditions like H2O2 cause disulfide bonds to form in Hsp33, a process that leads to the activation of its chaperone function. In vitro and in vivo experiments suggest that Hsp33 protects cells from oxidants, leading us to conclude that we have found a protein family that plays an important role in the bacterial defense system toward oxidative stress. (+info
Crystal structures of two Sm protein complexes and their implications for the assembly of the spliceosomal snRNPs.
The U1, U2, U4/U6, and U5 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles (snRNPs) involved in pre-mRNA splicing contain seven Sm proteins (B/B', D1, D2, D3, E, F, and G) in common, which assemble around the Sm site present in four of the major spliceosomal small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs). These proteins share a common sequence motif in two segments, Sm1 and Sm2, separated by a short variable linker. Crystal structures of two Sm protein complexes, D3B and D1D2, show that these proteins have a common fold containing an N-terminal helix followed by a strongly bent five-stranded antiparallel beta sheet, and the D1D2 and D3B dimers superpose closely in their core regions, including the dimer interfaces. The crystal structures suggest that the seven Sm proteins could form a closed ring and the snRNAs may be bound in the positively charged central hole. (+info