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Reader's Corner Archive

27 Aug 2020

NMR Methods for Structural Characterization of Protein-Protein Complexes (Front. Mol. Biosci.)

Protein-protein interactions and the complexes thus formed are critical elements in a wide variety of cellular events that require an atomic-level description to understand them in detail. Such complexes typically constitute challenging systems to characterize and drive the development of innovative biophysical methods. NMR spectroscopy techniques can be applied to extract atomic resolution information on the binding interfaces, intermolecular affinity, and binding-induced conformational changes in protein-protein complexes formed in solution, in the cell membrane, and in large macromolecular assemblies. Here Venditti V. et al. discuss experimental techniques for the characterization of protein-protein complexes in both solution NMR and solid-state NMR spectroscopy. The approaches include solvent paramagnetic relaxation enhancement and chemical shift perturbations (CSPs) for the identification of binding interfaces, and the application of intermolecular nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy and residual dipolar couplings to obtain structural constraints of protein-protein complexes in solution. Complementary methods in solid-state NMR are described, with emphasis on the versatility provided by heteronuclear dipolar recoupling to extract intermolecular constraints in differentially labeled protein complexes. The methods described are of particular relevance to the analysis of membrane proteins, such as those involved in signal transduction pathways, since they can potentially be characterized by both solution and solid-state NMR techniques, and thus outline key developments in this frontier of structural biology.

19 Aug 2020

Structure of human GABA(B) receptor in an inactive state (Nature)

The human GABA(B) receptor-a member of the class C family of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)-mediates inhibitory neurotransmission and has been implicated in epilepsy, pain and addiction. A unique GPCR that is known to require heterodimerization for function, the GABA(B) receptor has two subunits, GABA(B1) and GABA(B2), that are structurally homologous but perform distinct and complementary functions. GABA(B1) recognizes orthosteric ligands, while GABA(B2) couples with G proteins. Each subunit is characterized by an extracellular Venus flytrap (VFT) module, a descending peptide linker, a seven-helix transmembrane domain and a cytoplasmic tail. Although the VFT heterodimer structure has been resolved, the structure of the full-length receptor and its transmembrane signalling mechanism remain unknown. Here O.B. Clarke, J. Frank, Q.R. Fan et al. present a near full-length structure of the GABA(B) receptor at atomic resolution, captured in an inactive state by cryo-electron microscopy. Their structure reveals several ligands that preassociate with the receptor, including two large endogenous phospholipids that are embedded within the transmembrane domains to maintain receptor integrity and modulate receptor function. They also identify a previously unknown heterodimer interface between transmembrane helices 3 and 5 of both subunits, which serves as a signature of the inactive conformation. A unique 'intersubunit latch' within this transmembrane interface maintains the inactive state, and its disruption leads to constitutive receptor activity. The structure of the GABA(B) receptor in an inactive state reveals, amongst other features, a latch between the two subunits that locks the transmembrane domain interface, and the presence of large phospholipids that may modulate receptor function.

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