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Molecular structure and dynamics of spider silk and venom proteins investigated by nuclear magnetic resonance

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Spider dragline silk is well known for its outstanding mechanical properties - a combination of strength and extensibility that makes it one of the toughest materials known. Two proteins, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and 2 (MaSp2), comprise dragline silk

Spider dragline silk is well known for its outstanding mechanical properties - a combination of strength and extensibility that makes it one of the toughest materials known. Two proteins, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and 2 (MaSp2), comprise dragline silk fibers. There has been considerable focus placed on understanding the source of spider silk's unique mechanical properties by investigating the protein composition, molecular structure and dynamics. Chemical compositional heterogeneity of spider silk fiber is critical to understand as it provides important information for the interactions between MaSp1 and MaSp2. Here, the amino acid composition of dragline silk protein was precisely determined using a solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) approach on hydrolyzed silk fibers. In a similar fashion, solution-state NMR was applied to probe the "13"C/"15"N incorporation in silk, which is essential to understand for designing particular solid-state NMR methods for silk structural characterization. Solid-state NMR was used to elucidate silk protein molecular dynamics and the supercontraction mechanism. A "2"H-"13"C heteronuclear correlation (HETCOR) solid-state NMR technique was developed to extract site-specific "2"H quadrupole patterns and spin-lattice relaxation rates for understanding backbone and side-chain dynamics. Using this technique, molecular dynamics were determined for a number of repetitive motifs in silk proteins - Ala residing nanocrystalline &beta-sheet; domains, 3"1"-helical regions, and, Gly-Pro-Gly-XX &beta-turn; motifs. The protein backbone and side-chain dynamics of silk fibers in both dry and wet states reveal the impact of water on motifs with different secondary structures. Spider venom is comprised of a diverse range of molecules including salts, small organics, acylpolyamines, peptides and proteins. Neurotoxins are an important family of peptides in spider venom and have been shown to target and modulate various ion channels. The neurotoxins are Cys-rich and share an inhibitor Cys knot (ICK) fold. Here, the molecular structure of one G. rosea tarantula neurotoxin, GsAF2, was determined by solution-state NMR. In addition, the interaction between neurotoxins and model lipid bilayers was probed with solid-state NMR and negative-staining (NS) transmission electron microscopy (TEM). It is shown that the neurotoxins influence lipid bilayer assembly and morphology with the formation of nanodiscs, worm-like micelles and small vesicles.

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2014

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Multifaceted regulation of V(D)J recombination

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V(D)J recombination is responsible for generating an enormous repertoire of immunoglobulins and T cell receptors, therefore it is a centerpiece to the formation of the adaptive immune system. The V(D)J recombination process proceeds through two steps, site-specific cleavage at RSS

V(D)J recombination is responsible for generating an enormous repertoire of immunoglobulins and T cell receptors, therefore it is a centerpiece to the formation of the adaptive immune system. The V(D)J recombination process proceeds through two steps, site-specific cleavage at RSS (Recombination Signal Sequence) site mediated by the RAG recombinase (RAG1/2) and the subsequent imprecise resolution of the DNA ends, which is carried out by the ubiquitous non-homologous end joining pathway (NHEJ). The V(D)J recombination reaction is obliged to be tightly controlled under all circumstances, as it involves generations of DNA double strand breaks, which are considered the most dangerous lesion to a cell. Multifaceted regulatory mechanisms have been evolved to create great diversity of the antigen receptor repertoire while ensuring genome stability. The RAG-mediated cleavage reaction is stringently regulated at both the pre-cleavage stage and the post-cleavage stage. Specifically, RAG1/2 first forms a pre-cleavage complex assembled at the boarder of RSS and coding flank, which ensures the appropriate DNA targeting. Subsequently, this complex initiates site-specific cleavage, generating two types of double stranded DNA breaks, hairpin-ended coding ends (HP-CEs) and blunt signal ends (SEs). After the cleavage, RAG1/2 proteins bind and retain the recombination ends to form post-cleavage complexes (PCC), which collaborates with the NHEJ machinery for appropriate transfer of recombination ends to NHEJ for proper end resolution. However, little is known about the molecular basis of this collaboration, partly attributed to the lack of sensitive assays to reveal the interaction of PCC with HP-CEs. Here, for the first time, by using two complementary fluorescence-based techniques, fluorescence anisotropy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), I managed to monitor the RAG1/2-catalyzed cleavage reaction in real time, from the pre-cleavage to the post-cleavage stages. By examining the dynamic fluorescence changes during the RAG-mediated cleavage reactions, and by manipulating the reaction conditions, I was able to characterize some fundamental properties of RAG-DNA interactions before and after cleavage. Firstly, Mg2+, known as a physiological cofactor at the excision step, also promotes the HP-CEs retention in the RAG complex after cleavage. Secondly, the structure of pre-cleavage complex may affect the subsequent collaborations with NHEJ for end resolution. Thirdly, the non-core region of RAG2 may have differential influences on the PCC retention of HP-CEs and SEs. Furthermore, I also provide the first evidence of RAG1-mediated regulation of RAG2. Our study provides important insights into the multilayered regulatory mechanisms, in modulating recombination events in developing lymphocytes and paves the way for possible development of detection and diagnotic markers for defective recombination events that are often associated immunodeficiency and/or lymphoid malignancy.

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2012

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Protein dielectrophoresis using insulator-based microfluidic platforms

Description

Rapid and reliable separation and analysis of proteins require powerful analytical methods. The analysis of proteins becomes especially challenging when only small sample volumes are available, concomitantly with low concentrations of proteins. Time critical situations pose additional challenges. Due to

Rapid and reliable separation and analysis of proteins require powerful analytical methods. The analysis of proteins becomes especially challenging when only small sample volumes are available, concomitantly with low concentrations of proteins. Time critical situations pose additional challenges. Due to these challenges, conventional macro-scale separation techniques reach their limitations. While microfluidic devices require only pL-nL sample volumes, they offer several advantages such as speed, efficiency, and high throughput. This work elucidates the capability to manipulate proteins in a rapid and reliable manner with a novel migration technique, namely dielectrophoresis (DEP). Since protein analysis can often be achieved through a combination of orthogonal techniques, adding DEP as a gradient technique to the portfolio of protein manipulation methods can extend and improve combinatorial approaches. To this aim, microfluidic devices tailored with integrated insulating obstacles were fabricated to create inhomogeneous electric fields evoking insulator-based DEP (iDEP). A main focus of this work was the development of pre-concentration devices where topological micropost arrays are fabricated using standard photo- and soft lithographic techniques. With these devices, positive DEP-driven streaming of proteins was demonstrated for the first time using immunoglobulin G (IgG) and bovine serum albumin. Experimentally observed iDEP concentrations of both proteins were in excellent agreement with positive DEP concentration profiles obtained by numerical simulations. Moreover, the micropost iDEP devices were improved by introducing nano-constrictions with focused ion beam milling with which numerical simulations suggested enhancement of the DEP effect, leading to a 12-fold increase in concentration of IgG. Additionally, concentration of β-galactosidase was observed, which seems to occur due to an interplay of negative DEP, electroosmosis, electrokinesis, diffusion, and ion concentration polarization. A detailed study was performed to investigate factors influencing protein DEP under DC conditions, including electroosmosis, electrophoresis, and Joule heating. Specifically, temperature rise within the iDEP device due to Joule heating was measured experimentally with spatial and temporal resolution by employing the thermosensitive dye Rhodamine B. Unlike DNA and cells, protein DEP behavior is not well understood to date. Therefore, this detailed study of protein DEP provides novel information to eventually optimize this protein migration method for pre-concentration, separation, and fractionation.

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2014

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An investigation of the interaction of DNA with selected peptides and proteins

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The communication of genetic material with biomolecules has been a major interest in cancer biology research for decades. Among its different levels of involvement, DNA is known to be a target of several antitumor agents. Additionally, tissue specific interaction between

The communication of genetic material with biomolecules has been a major interest in cancer biology research for decades. Among its different levels of involvement, DNA is known to be a target of several antitumor agents. Additionally, tissue specific interaction between macromolecules such as proteins and structurally important regions of DNA has been reported to define the onset of certain types of cancers.

Illustrated in Chapter 1 is the general history of research on the interaction of DNA and anticancer drugs, most importantly different congener of bleomycin (BLM). Additionally, several synthetic analogues of bleomycin, including the structural components and functionalities, are discussed.

Chapter 2 describes a new approach to study the double-strand DNA lesion caused by antitumor drug bleomycin. The hairpin DNA library used in this study displays numerous cleavage sites demonstrating the versatility of bleomycin interaction with DNA. Interestingly, some of those cleavage sites suggest a novel mechanism of bleomycin interaction, which has not been reported before.

Cytidine methylation has generally been found to decrease site-specific cleavage of DNA by BLM, possibly due to structural change and subsequent reduced bleomycin-mediated recognition of DNA. As illustrated in Chapter 3, three hairpin DNAs known to be strongly bound by bleomycin, and their methylated counterparts, were used to study the dynamics of bleomycin-induced degradation of DNAs in cancer cells. Interestingly, cytidine methylation on one of the DNAs has also shown a major shift in the intensity of bleomycin induced double-strand DNA cleavage pattern, which is known to be a more potent form of bleomycin induced cleavages.

DNA secondary structures are known to play important roles in gene regulation. Chapter 4 demonstrates a structural change of the BCL2 promoter element as a result of its dynamic interaction with the individual domains of hnRNP LL, which is essential to facilitate the transcription of BCL2. Furthermore, an in vitro protein synthesis technique has been employed to study the dynamic interaction between protein domains and the i-motif DNA within the promoter element. Several constructs were made involving replacement of a single amino acid with a fluorescent analogue, and these were used to study FRET between domain 1 and the i-motif, the later of which harbored a fluorescent acceptor nucleotide analogue.

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2014

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Investigating dynamics using three systems: Cy3 on DNA, ME1 heterodimers, and DNA processivity clamps

Description

Biophysical techniques have been increasingly applied toward answering biological questions with more precision. Here, three different biological systems were studied with the goal of understanding their dynamic differences, either conformational dynamics within the system or oligomerization dynamics between monomers.

Biophysical techniques have been increasingly applied toward answering biological questions with more precision. Here, three different biological systems were studied with the goal of understanding their dynamic differences, either conformational dynamics within the system or oligomerization dynamics between monomers. With Cy3 on the 5' end of DNA, the effects of changing the terminal base pair were explored using temperature-dependent quantum yields. It was discovered, in combination with simulations, that a terminal thymine base has the weakest stacking interactions with the Cy3 dye compared to the other three bases. With ME1 heterodimers, the goal was to see if engineering a salt bridge at the dimerization interface could allow for control over dimerization in a pH-dependent manner. This was performed experimentally by measuring FRET between monomers containing either a Dap or an Asp mutation and comparing FRET efficiency at different pHs. It was demonstrated that the heterodimeric salt bridge would only form in a pH range near neutrality. Finally, with DNA processivity clamps, one aim was to compare the equilibrium dissociation constants, kinetic rate constants, and lifetimes of the closed rings for beta clamp and PCNA. This was done using a variety of biophysical techniques but with three as the main focus: fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, single-molecule experiments, and time-correlated single photon counting measurements. The stability of beta clamp was found to be three orders of magnitude higher when measuring solution stability but only one order of magnitude higher when measuring intrinsic stability, which is a result of salt bridge interactions in the interface of beta clamp. Ongoing work built upon the findings from this project by attempting to disrupt interface stability of different beta clamp mutants by adding salt or changing the pH of the solution. Lingering questions about the dynamics of different areas of the clamps has led to another project for which we have developed a control to demystify some unexpected similarities between beta clamp mutants. With that project, we show that single-labeled and double-labeled samples have similar autocorrelation decays in florescence correlation spectroscopy, allowing us to rule out the dyes themselves as causing fluctuations in the 10-100 microsecond timescale.

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2015

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Investigating the stoichiometry of RuBisCO activase by fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy

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Ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, commonly known as RuBisCO, is an enzyme involved in carbon fixation in photosynthetic organisms. The enzyme is subject to a mechanism-based deactivation during its catalytic cycle. RuBisCO activase (Rca), an ancillary enzyme belonging to the AAA+

Ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, commonly known as RuBisCO, is an enzyme involved in carbon fixation in photosynthetic organisms. The enzyme is subject to a mechanism-based deactivation during its catalytic cycle. RuBisCO activase (Rca), an ancillary enzyme belonging to the AAA+ family of the ATP-ases, rescues RuBisCO by facilitating the removal of the tightly bound sugar phosphates from the active sites of RuBisCO. In this work, we investigated the ATP/ADP dependent oligomerization equilibrium of fluorescently tagged Rca for a wide range of concentrations using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. Results show that in the presence of ADP-Mg2+, the oligomerization state of Rca gradually changes in steps of two subunits. The most probable association model supports the dissociation constants (K_d) of ∼4, 1, 1 μM for the monomer-dimer, dimer-tetramer, and tetramer-hexamer equlibria, respectively. Rca continues to assemble at higher concentrations which are indicative of the formation of aggregates. In the presence of ATP-Mg2+, a similar stepwise assembly is observed. However, at higher concentrations (30-75 µM), the average oligomeric size remains relatively unchanged around six subunits per oligomer. This is in sharp contrast with observations in ADP-Mg2+, where a marked decrease in the diffusion coefficient of Rca was observed, consistent with the formation of aggregates. The estimated K_d values obtained from the analysis of the FCS decays were similar for the first steps of the assembly process in both ADP-Mg2+ and ATP-Mg2+. However, the formation of the hexamer from the tetramer is much more favored in ATP-Mg2+, as evidenced from 20 fold lower K_d associated with this assembly step. This suggests that the formation of a hexameric ring in the presence of ATP-Mg2+. In addition to that, Rca aggregation is largely suppressed in the presence of ATP-Mg2+, as evidenced from the 1000 fold larger K_d value for the hexamer-24 mer association step. In essence, a fluorescence-based method was developed to monitor in vitro protein oligomerization and was successfully applied with Rca. The results provide a strong hint at the active oligomeric structure of Rca, and this information will hopefully help the ongoing research on the mechanistic enzymology of Rca.

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2014

Sample delivery enabled by 3D printing for reduced sample consumption and mix-and-inject serial crystallography at x-ray free electron lasers

Description

Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) with X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) has enabled the determination of damage-free protein structures at ambient temperatures and of reaction intermediate species with time resolution on the order of hundreds of femtoseconds. However, currently available XFEL

Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) with X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) has enabled the determination of damage-free protein structures at ambient temperatures and of reaction intermediate species with time resolution on the order of hundreds of femtoseconds. However, currently available XFEL facility X-ray pulse structures waste the majority of continuously injected crystal sample, requiring a large quantity (up to grams) of crystal sample to solve a protein structure. Furthermore, mix-and-inject serial crystallography (MISC) at XFEL facilities requires fast mixing for short (millisecond) reaction time points (𝑡"), and current sample delivery methods have complex fabrication and assembly requirements.

To reduce sample consumption during SFX, a 3D printed T-junction for generating segmented aqueous-in-oil droplets was developed. The device surface properties were characterized both with and without a surface coating for improved droplet generation stability. Additionally, the droplet generation frequency was characterized. The 3D printed device interfaced with gas dynamic virtual nozzles (GDVNs) at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), and a relationship between the aqueous phase volume and the resulting crystal hit rate was developed. Furthermore, at the European XFEL (EuXFEL) a similar quantity and quality of diffraction data was collected for segmented sample delivery using ~60% less sample volume than continuous injection, and a structure of 3-deoxy-D-manno- octulosonate 8-phosphate synthase (KDO8PS) delivered by segmented injection was solved that revealed new structural details to a resolution of 2.8 Å.

For MISC, a 3D printed hydrodynamic focusing mixer for fast mixing by diffusion was developed to automate device fabrication and simplify device assembly. The mixer was characterized with numerical models and fluorescence microscopy. A variety of devices were developed to reach reaction intermediate time points, 𝑡", on the order of 100 – 103 ms. These devices include 3D printed mixers coupled to glass or 3D printed GDVNs and two designs of mixers with GDVNs integrated into the one device. A 3D printed mixer coupled to a glass GDVN was utilized at LCLS to study the oxidation of cytochrome c oxidase (CcO), and a structure of the CcO Pr intermediate was determined at 𝑡" = 8 s.

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2019

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Understanding the Self-assembly Pathway of Higher Plant Rubisco Activase

Description

Rubisco activase (Rca) from higher plants is a stromal ATPase essential for reactivating Rubiscos rendered catalytically inactive by endogenous inhibitors. Rca’s functional state is thought to consist of ring-like hexameric assemblies, similar to other members of the AAA+ protein superfamily.

Rubisco activase (Rca) from higher plants is a stromal ATPase essential for reactivating Rubiscos rendered catalytically inactive by endogenous inhibitors. Rca’s functional state is thought to consist of ring-like hexameric assemblies, similar to other members of the AAA+ protein superfamily. However, unlike other members, it does not form obligate hexamers and is quite polydisperse in solution, making elucidation of its self-association pathway challenging. This polydispersity also makes interpretation of traditional biochemical approaches difficult, prompting use of a fluorescence-based technique (Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy) to investigate the relationship between quaternary structure and function. Like cotton β Rca, tobacco β Rca appears to assemble in a step-wise and nucleotide-dependent manner. Incubation in varying nucleotides appears to alter the equilibrium between varying oligomers, either promoting or minimizing the formation of larger oligomers. High concentrations of ADP seem to favor continuous assembly towards larger oligomers, while assembly in the presence of ATP-yS (an ATP analog) appears to halt continuous assembly in favor of hexameric species. In contrast, assembly in the “Active ATP Turnover” condition (a mixture of ATP and ADP) appears to favor an almost equal distribution of tetramer and hexamer, which when compared with ATPase activity, shows great alignment with maximum activity in the low µM range. Despite this alignment, the decrease in ATPase activity does not follow any particular oligomer, but rather decreases with increasing aggregation, suggesting that assembly dynamics may regulate ATPase activity, rather than the formation/disappearance of one specific oligomer. Work presented here also indicates that all oligomers larger than hexamers are catalytically inactive, thus providing support for the idea that they may serve as a storage mechanism to minimize wasteful hydrolysis. These findings are also supported by assembly work carried out on an Assembly Mutant (R294V), known for favoring formation of closed-ring hexamers. Similar assembly studies were carried out on spinach Rca, however, due to its aggregation propensity, FCS results were more difficult to interpret. Based on these findings, one could argue that assembly dynamics are essential for Rca function, both in ATPase and in regulation of Rubisco carboxylation activity, thus providing a rational for Rca’s high degree of polydispersity.

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2018

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Investigating the Effect of Salts and Small Molecule on Dissociation and Association Kinetics of the DNA Processivity Clamps using Fluorescence Techniques

Description

In this study, the stability of two protein homo-oligomers, the β clamp (homodimer) from E. coli and the Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) from the yeast cell, were characterized. These clamps open through one interface by another protein called clam

In this study, the stability of two protein homo-oligomers, the β clamp (homodimer) from E. coli and the Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) from the yeast cell, were characterized. These clamps open through one interface by another protein called clamp loader, which helps it to encircle the DNA template strand. The β clamp protein binds with DNA polymerase and helps it to slide through the template strand and prevents its dissociation from the template strand. The questions need to be to answered in this research are, whether subunit stoichiometry contributes to the stability of the clamp proteins and how does the clamp loader open up the clamp, does it have to exert force on the clamp or does it take advantage of the dynamic behavior of the interface?

The x-ray crystallography structure of the β clamp suggests that there are oppositely charged amino acid pairs present at the interface of the dimer. They can form strong electrostatic interactions between them. However, for Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA), there are no such charged amino acids present at its interface. High sodium chloride (NaCl) concentrations were used to disrupt the electrostatic interactions at the interface. The role of charged pairs in the clamp interface was characterized by measuring the apparent diffusion times (\tau_{app}) with fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). However, the dissociation of the Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) trimer does not depend on sodium chloride (NaCl) concentration.

In the next part of my thesis, potassium glutamate (KGlu) and glycine betaine (GB) were used to investigate their effect on the stability of both clamp proteins. FCS experiments with labeled β clamp and Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) were performed containing different concentrations of potassium glutamate and glycine betaine in the solution, showed that the apparent diffusion time\ {(\tau}_{app}) increases with potassium glutamate and glycine betaine concentrations, which indicate clamps are forming higher-order oligomers. Solute molecules get excluded from the protein surface when the binding affinity of the protein surface for water molecules is more than solutes (potassium glutamate, and glycine betaine), which has a net stabilizing effect on the protein structure.

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2020