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Quinone Removal and Replacement within the Reaction Center Protein of Rhodobacter sphaeroides

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With a quantum efficiency of nearly 100%, the electron transfer process that occurs within the reaction center protein of the photosynthetic bacteria Rhodobacter (Rh.) sphaeroides is a paragon for understanding the complexities, intricacies, and overall systemization of energy conversion and

With a quantum efficiency of nearly 100%, the electron transfer process that occurs within the reaction center protein of the photosynthetic bacteria Rhodobacter (Rh.) sphaeroides is a paragon for understanding the complexities, intricacies, and overall systemization of energy conversion and storage in natural systems. To better understand the way in which photons of light are captured, converted into chemically useful forms, and stored for biological use, an investigation into the reaction center protein, specifically into its cascade of cofactors, was undertaken. The purpose of this experimentation was to advance our knowledge and understanding of how differing protein environments and variant cofactors affect the spectroscopic aspects of and electron transfer kinetics within the reaction of Rh. sphaeroides. The native quinone, ubiquinone, was extracted from its pocket within the reaction center protein and replaced by non-native quinones having different reduction/oxidation potentials. It was determined that, of the two non-native quinones tested—1,2-naphthaquinone and 9,10- anthraquinone—the substitution of the anthraquinone (lower redox potential) resulted in an increased rate of recombination from the P+QA- charge-separated state, while the substitution of the napthaquinone (higher redox potential) resulted in a decreased rate of recombination.

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2015-12

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Elucidating Structural and Functional Information on the Human Cold-Sensing Protein TRPM8 via Isolating the Pore Domain and Cross-Chimeric Studies

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Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels are a diverse family of nonselective, polymodal sensors in uni- and multicellular eukaryotes that are implicated in an assortment of biological contexts and human disease. The cold-activated TRP Melastatin-8 (TRPM8) channel, also recognized as

Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels are a diverse family of nonselective, polymodal sensors in uni- and multicellular eukaryotes that are implicated in an assortment of biological contexts and human disease. The cold-activated TRP Melastatin-8 (TRPM8) channel, also recognized as the human body's primary cold sensor, is among the few TRP channels responsible for thermosensing. Despite sustained interest in the channel, the mechanisms underlying TRPM8 activation, modulation, and gating have proved challenging to study and remain poorly understood. In this thesis, I offer data collected on various expression, extraction, and purification conditions tested in E. Coli expression systems with the aim to optimize the generation of a structurally stable and functional human TRPM8 pore domain (S5 and S6) construct for application in structural biology studies. These studies, including the biophysical technique nuclear magnetic spectroscopy (NMR), among others, will be essential for elucidating the role of the TRPM8 pore domain in in regulating ligand binding, channel gating, ion selectively, and thermal sensitivity. Moreover, in the second half of this thesis, I discuss the ligation-independent megaprimer PCR of whole-plasmids (MEGAWHOP PCR) cloning technique, and how it was used to generate chimeras between TRPM8 and its nearest analog TRPM2. I review steps taken to optimize the efficiency of MEGAWHOP PCR and the implications and unique applications of this novel methodology for advancing recombinant DNA technology. I lastly present preliminary electrophysiological data on the chimeras, employed to isolate and study the functional contributions of each individual transmembrane helix (S1-S6) to TRPM8 menthol activation. These studies show the utility of the TRPM8\u2014TRPM2 chimeras for dissecting function of TRP channels. The average current traces analyzed thus far indicate that the S2 and S3 helices appear to play an important role in TRPM8 menthol modulation because the TRPM8[M2S2] and TRPM8[M2S3] chimeras significantly reduce channel conductance in the presence of menthol. The TRPM8[M2S4] chimera, oppositely, increases channel conductance, implying that the S4 helix in native TRPM8 may suppress menthol modulation. Overall, these findings show that there is promise in the techniques chosen to identify specific regions of TRPM8 crucial to menthol activation, though the methods chosen to study the TRPM8 pore independent from the whole channel may need to be reevaluated. Further experiments will be necessary to refine TRPM8 pore solubilization and purification before structural studies can proceed, and the electrophysiology traces observed for the chimeras will need to be further verified and evaluated for consistency and physiological significance.

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2016-05

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Dependence of the angular velocity of rotation on rotational position at which ATP-binding occurs at the empty catalytic site of the F1-ATPase molecular motor

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The FoF1 ATP synthase is a molecular motor critical to the metabolism of virtually all life forms, and it acts in the manner of a hydroelectric generator. The F1 complex contains an (αβ)3 (hexamer) ring in which catalysis occurs, as

The FoF1 ATP synthase is a molecular motor critical to the metabolism of virtually all life forms, and it acts in the manner of a hydroelectric generator. The F1 complex contains an (αβ)3 (hexamer) ring in which catalysis occurs, as well as a rotor comprised by subunit-ε in addition to the coiled-coil and globular foot domains of subunit-γ. The F1 complex can hydrolyze ATP in vitro in a manner that drives counterclockwise (CCW) rotation, in 120° power strokes, as viewed from the positive side of the membrane. The power strokes that occur in ≈ 300 μsec are separated by catalytic dwells that occur on a msec time scale. A single-molecule rotation assay that uses the intensity of polarized light, scattered from a 75 × 35 nm gold nanorod, determined the average rotational velocity of the power stroke (ω, in degrees/ms) as a function of the rotational position of the rotor (θ, in degrees, measured in reference to the catalytic dwell). The velocity is not constant but rather accelerates and decelerates in two Phases. Phase-1 (0° - 60°) is believed to derive power from elastic energy in the protein. At concentrations of ATP that limit the rate of ATP hydrolysis, the rotor can stop for an ATP-binding dwell during Phase-1. Although the most probable position that the ATP-binding dwell occurs is 40° after the catalytic dwell, the ATP-binding dwell can occur at any rotational position during Phase-1 of the power stroke. Phase-2 of the power stroke (60° - 120°) is believed to be powered by the ATP-binding induced closure of the lever domain of a β-subunit (as it acts as a cam shaft against the γ-subunit). Algorithms were written, to sort and analyze F1-ATPase power strokes, to determine the average rotational velocity profile of power strokes as a function of the rotational position at which the ATP-binding dwell occurs (θATP-bd), and when the ATP-binding dwell is absent. Sorting individual ω(θ) curves, as a function of θATP-bd, revealed that a dependence of ω on
θATP-bd exists. The ATP-binding dwell can occur even at saturating ATP concentrations. We report that ω follows a distinct pattern in the vicinity of the ATP-binding dwell, and that the ω(θ) curve contains the same oscillations within it regardless of θATP-bd. We observed that an acceleration/deceleration dependence before and after the ATP-binding dwell, respectively, remained for increasing time intervals as the dwell occurred later in Phase-1, to a maximum of ≈ 40°. The results were interpreted in terms of a model in which the ATP-binding dwell results from internal drag at a variable position on the γε rotor.

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2016-12

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Characterization of the electron acceptors of the type-I photosynthetic reaction center of Heliobacterium modesticaldum

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The heliobacterial reaction center (HbRC) is widely considered the simplest and most primitive photosynthetic reaction center (RC) still in existence. Despite the simplicity of the HbRC, many aspects of the electron transfer mechanism remain unknown or under debate. Improving our

The heliobacterial reaction center (HbRC) is widely considered the simplest and most primitive photosynthetic reaction center (RC) still in existence. Despite the simplicity of the HbRC, many aspects of the electron transfer mechanism remain unknown or under debate. Improving our understanding of the structure and function of the HbRC is important in determining its role in the evolution of photosynthetic RCs. In this work, the function and properties of the iron-sulfur cluster FX and quinones of the HbRC were investigated, as these are the characteristic terminal electron acceptors used by Type-I and Type-II RCs, respectively. In Chapter 3, I develop a system to directly detect quinone double reduction activity using reverse-phase high pressure liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC), showing that Photosystem I (PSI) can reduce PQ to PQH2. In Chapter 4, I use RP-HPLC to characterize the HbRC, showing a surprisingly small antenna size and confirming the presence of menaquinone (MQ) in the isolated HbRC. The terminal electron acceptor FX was characterized spectroscopically and electrochemically in Chapter 5. I used three new systems to reduce FX in the HbRC, using EPR to confirm a S=3/2 ground-state for the reduced cluster. The midpoint potential of FX determined through thin film voltammetry was -372 mV, showing the cluster is much less reducing than previously expected. In Chapter 7, I show light-driven reduction of menaquinone in heliobacterial membrane samples using only mild chemical reductants. Finally, I discuss the evolutionary implications of these findings in Chapter 7.

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2012

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Method development in crystallization for femtosecond nanocrystallography

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Membrane proteins are a vital part of cellular structure. They are directly involved in many important cellular functions, such as uptake, signaling, respiration, and photosynthesis, among others. Despite their importance, however, less than 500 unique membrane protein structures have been

Membrane proteins are a vital part of cellular structure. They are directly involved in many important cellular functions, such as uptake, signaling, respiration, and photosynthesis, among others. Despite their importance, however, less than 500 unique membrane protein structures have been determined to date. This is due to several difficulties with macromolecular crystallography, primarily the difficulty of growing large, well-ordered protein crystals. Since the first proof of concept for femtosecond nanocrystallography showing that diffraction patterns can be collected on extremely small crystals, thus negating the need to grow larger crystals, there have been many exciting advancements in the field. The technique has been proven to show high spatial resolution, thus making it a viable method for structural biology. However, due to the ultrafast nature of the technique, which allows for a lack of radiation damage in imaging, even more interesting experiments are possible, and the first temporal and spatial images of an undamaged structure could be acquired. This concept was denoted as time-resolved femtosecond nanocrystallography.

This dissertation presents on the first time-resolved data set of Photosystem II where structural changes can actually be seen without radiation damage. In order to accomplish this, new crystallization techniques had to be developed so that enough crystals could be made for the liquid jet to deliver a fully hydrated stream of crystals to the high-powered X-ray source. These changes are still in the preliminary stages due to the slightly lower resolution data obtained, but they are still a promising show of the power of this new technique. With further optimization of crystal growth methods and quality, injection technique, and continued development of data analysis software, it is only a matter of time before the ability to make movies of molecules in motion from X-ray diffraction snapshots in time exists. The work presented here is the first step in that process.

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2014

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Glycan-cyanovirin-N interactions and designed WW domains: combining experimental and computational studies

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Cyanovirin-N (CVN) is a cyanobacterial lectin with potent anti-HIV activity, mediated by binding to the N-linked oligosaccharide moiety of the envelope protein gp120. CVN offers a scaffold to develop multivalent carbohydrate-binding proteins with tunable specificities and affinities. I present here

Cyanovirin-N (CVN) is a cyanobacterial lectin with potent anti-HIV activity, mediated by binding to the N-linked oligosaccharide moiety of the envelope protein gp120. CVN offers a scaffold to develop multivalent carbohydrate-binding proteins with tunable specificities and affinities. I present here biophysical calculations completed on a monomeric-stabilized mutant of cyanovirin-N, P51G-m4-CVN, in which domain A binding activity is abolished by four mutations; with comparisons made to CVNmutDB, in which domain B binding activity is abolished. Using Monte Carlo calculations and docking simulations, mutations in CVNmutDB were considered singularly, and the mutations E41A/G and T57A were found to impact the affinity towards dimannose the greatest. 15N-labeled proteins were titrated with Manα(1-2)Manα, while following chemical shift perturbations in NMR spectra. The mutants, E41A/G and T57A, had a larger Kd than P51G-m4-CVN, matching the trends predicted by the calculations. We also observed that the N42A mutation affects the local fold of the binding pocket, thus removing all binding to dimannose. Characterization of the mutant N53S showed similar binding affinity to P51G-m4-CVN. Using biophysical calculations allows us to study future iterations of models to explore affinities and specificities. In order to further elucidate the role of multivalency, I report here a designed covalent dimer of CVN, Nested cyanovirin-N (Nested CVN), which has four binding sites. Nested CVN was found to have comparable binding affinity to gp120 and antiviral activity to wt CVN. These results demonstrate the ability to create a multivalent, covalent dimer that has comparable results to that of wt CVN.

WW domains are small modules consisting of 32-40 amino acids that recognize proline-rich peptides and are found in many signaling pathways. We use WW domain sequences to explore protein folding by simulations using Zipping and Assembly Method. We identified five crucial contacts that enabled us to predict the folding of WW domain sequences based on those contacts. We then designed a folded WW domain peptide from an unfolded WW domain sequence by introducing native contacts at those critical positions.

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2014