XVIII Discussions in Structural Molecular Biology and the 5th User meeting of CIISB in Nové Hrady
XVIII Discussions in Structural Molecular Biology and the 5th User meeting of CIISB in Nové Hrady is planned on 24-26 March 2022.
XVIII Discussions in Structural Molecular Biology and the 5th User meeting of CIISB in Nové Hrady is planned on 24-26 March 2022.
Building molecules is a difficult art. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 for their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis. This has had a great impact on pharmaceutical research and has made chemistry greener.
Three Laureates share this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their studies of chaotic and apparently random phenomena. Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it.
On October 12 the Centre of Molecular Structure with experts from NanoTemper company are holding a demonstration of the Prometheus Panta for protein stability with particle size determination and of the new Monolith MST device with better temperature control for the characterization of biomolecular interaction.
Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us. In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived? This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates.
The series Emerging topics in Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance will continue on September 30th at 16:00 CEST with the following lecturers and topics:
Targeting the interaction between the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein and the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. D. Baker et.al. designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer-generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences were designed to optimize target binding, folding, and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD, with affinities ranging from 100 picomolar to 10 nanomolar, and blocked SARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with median inhibitory concentration (IC50) values between 24 picomolar and 35 nanomolar. The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56- and 64-residue proteins (IC50 similar to 0.16 nanograms per milliliter). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.
SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 million infections and more than 500,000 fatalities by June 2020. To initiate infection, the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein promotes attachment to the host cell surface and fusion of the viral and host membranes. Prefusion SARS-CoV-2 S is the main target of neutralizing antibodies and the focus of vaccine design. However, its limited stability and conformational dynamics are limiting factors for developing countermeasures against this virus. Veesler, D. et. al. report here the design of a construct corresponding to the prefusion SARS-CoV-2 S ectodomain trimer, covalently stabilized by a disulfide bond in the closed conformation. Structural and antigenicity analyses show that they successfully shut S in the closed state without otherwise altering its architecture. They demonstrate that this strategy is applicable to other beta-coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, and might become an important tool for structural biology, serology, vaccine design and immunology studies.
The spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 mediates receptor binding and cell entry and is the dominant target of the immune system. It exhibits substantial conformational flexibility. It transitions from closed to open conformations to expose its receptor-binding site and, subsequently, from prefusion to postfusion conformations to mediate fusion of viral and cellular membranes. S-protein derivatives are components of vaccine candidates and diagnostic assays, as well as tools for research into the biology and immunology of SARS-CoV-2. Here Xiong, X.L., Briggs, J.A.G. et. al. have designed mutations in S that allow the production of thermostable, disulfide-bonded S-protein trimers that are trapped in the closed, prefusion state. Structures of the disulfide-stabilized and non-disulfide-stabilized proteins reveal distinct closed and locked conformations of the S trimer. They demonstrate that the designed, thermostable, closed S trimer can be used in serological assays. This protein has potential applications as a reagent for serology, virology and as an immunogen.
Ultrabright pulses produced in X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) offer new possibilities for industry and research, particularly for biochemistry and pharmaceuticals. The unprecedented brilliance of these next-generation sources enables structure determination from sub-micron crystals as well as radiation-sensitive proteins. The European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser (EuXFEL), with its first light in 2017, ushered in a new era for ultrabright X-ray sources by providing an unparalleled megahertz-pulse repetition rate, with orders of magnitude more pulses per second than previous XFEL sources. This rapid pulse frequency has significant implications for structure determination; not only will data collection be faster (resulting in more structures per unit time), but experiments requiring large quantities of data, such as time-resolved structures, become feasible in a reasonable amount of experimental time. Early experiments at the SPB/SFX instrument of the EuXFEL demonstrate how such closely-spaced pulses can be successfully implemented in otherwise challenging experiments, such as time-resolved studies.
Most bacterial and all archaeal cells are encapsulated by a paracrystalline, protective, and cell-shape-determining proteinaceous surface layer (S-layer). On Gram-negative bacteria, S-layers are anchored to cells via lipopolysaccharidevan. Kugelen et. al. report an electron cryo-microscopy structure of the Caulobacter crescentus S-layer bound to the O-antigen of lipopolysaccharide. Using native mass spectrometry and molecular dynamics simulations, they deduce the length of the O-antigen on cells and show how lipopolysaccharide binding and S-layer assembly is regulated by calcium. Finally, they present a near-atomic resolution in situ structure of the complete S-layer using cellular electron cryo-tomography, showing S-layer arrangement at the tip of the O-antigen. A complete atomic structure of the S-layer shows the power of cellular tomography for in situ structural biology and sheds light on a very abundant class of self-assembling molecules with important roles in prokaryotic physiology with marked potential for synthetic biology and surface-display applications.
Technical developments are unifying molecular and cellular biology. A recent electron cryo-tomography study by von Kugelgen et al. highlights the bright future for such studies, seamlessly integrating near-atomic resolution protein structures, organism-scale architecture, native mass spectrometry, and molecular dynamic simulations to clarify how the Caulobacter crescentus S-layer assembles on the lipopolysaccharides (LPS) of the cell surface.
The structure–function relationships of biomolecules have captured the interest and imagination of the scientific community and general public since the field of structural biology emerged to enable the molecular understanding of life processes. Proteins that play numerous functional roles in cellular processes have remained in the forefront of research, inspiring new characterization techniques. In this review in Annual Review of Physical Chemistry, Chong Fang and Longteng Tang present key theoretical concepts and recent experimental strategies using femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS) to map the structural dynamics of proteins, highlighting the flexible chromophores on ultrafast timescales. In particular, wavelength-tunable FSRS exploits dynamic resonance conditions to track transient-species-dependent vibrational motions, enabling rational design to alter functions. Various ways of capturing excited-state chromophore structural snapshots in the time and/or frequency domains are discussed. Continuous development of experimental methodologies, synergistic correlation with theoretical modeling, and the expansion to other nonequilibrium, photo-switchable, and controllable protein systems will greatly advance the chemical, physical, and biological sciences.
DNA and RNA can adopt various secondary structures. Four-stranded G-quadruplex (G4) structures form through self-recognition of guanines into stacked tetrads, and considerable biophysical and structural evidence exists for G4 formation in vitro. Computational studies and sequencing methods have revealed the prevalence of G4 sequence motifs at gene regulatory regions in various genomes, including in humans. Experiments using chemical, molecular and cell biology methods have demonstrated that G4s exist in chromatin DNA and in RNA, and have linked G4 formation with key biological processes ranging from transcription and translation to genome instability and cancer. In the paper published in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Balasubramanian, S. et al. first discuss the identification of G4s and evidence for their formation in cells using chemical biology, imaging and genomic technologies. They then discuss possible functions of DNA G4s and their interacting proteins, particularly in transcription, telomere biology and genome instability. Roles of RNA G4s in RNA biology, especially in translation, are also discussed. Furthermore, they consider the emerging relationships of G4s with chromatin and with RNA modifications. Finally, they discuss the connection between G4 formation and synthetic lethality in cancer cells, and recent progress towards considering G4s as therapeutic targets in human diseases.
The primary structural component of the bacterial cell wall is peptidoglycan, which is essential for viability and the synthesis of which is the target for crucial antibiotics. Peptidoglycan is a single macromolecule made of glycan chains crosslinked by peptide side branches that surrounds the cell, acting as a constraint to internal turgor. In Gram-positive bacteria, peptidoglycan is tens of nanometers thick, generally portrayed as a homogeneous structure that provides mechanical strength. S. J. Foster & J. K. Hobbs et.al. applied atomic force microscopy to interrogate the morphologically distinct Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis species, using live cells and purified peptidoglycan. The paper published in Nature shows that the mature surface of live cells is characterized by a landscape of large (up to 60 nm in diameter), deep (up to 23 nm) pores constituting a disordered gel of peptidoglycan. The inner peptidoglycan surface, consisting of more nascent material, is much denser, with glycan strand spacing typically less than 7 nm. The inner surface architecture is location dependent; the cylinder of B. subtilis has dense circumferential orientation, while in S. aureus and division septa for both species, peptidoglycan is dense but randomly oriented. Revealing the molecular architecture of the cell envelope frames our understanding of its mechanical properties and role as the environmental interface, providing information complementary to traditional structural biology approaches.
The first recognition of protein breathing was more than 50 years ago. Today, we are able to detect the multitude of interaction modes, structural polymorphisms, and binding-induced changes in protein structure that direct function. Solution-state NMR spectroscopy has proved to be a powerful technique, not only to obtain high-resolution structures of proteins, but also to provide unique insights into the functional dynamics of proteins. Hari Arthanari, Gerhard Wager et. al. in the Current Opinion in Structural Biology review summarize recent technical landmarks in solution NMR that have enabled characterization of key biological macromolecular systems. These methods have been fundamental to atomic resolution structure determination and quantitative analysis of dynamics over a wide range of time scales by NMR. The ability of NMR to detect lowly populated protein conformations and transiently formed complexes plays a critical role in its ability to elucidate functionally important structural features of proteins and their dynamics.
Recent advances in electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) structure determination have pushed the resolutions obtainable by the method into the range widely considered to be of utility for drug discovery. Harren Jhoti et. al. in Drug Discovery Today review the use of cryo-EM in fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) based on in-house method development. They demonstrate not only that cryo-EM can reveal details of the molecular interactions between fragments and a protein, but also that the current reproducibility, quality, and throughput are compatible with FBDD. In addition, they exemplify this using the test system β-galactosidase (Bgal) and the oncology target pyruvate kinase 2 (PKM2).