Protein functions can be predicted based on their three-dimensional structures. However, many multidomain proteins have unstable structures, making it difficult to determine the whole structure in biological experiments. Additionally, multidomain proteins are often decomposed and identified based on their domains, with the structure of each domain often found in public databases. Recent studies have advanced structure prediction methods of multidomain proteins through computational analysis. In existing methods, proteins that serve as templates are used for three-dimensional structure prediction. However, when no protein template is available, the accuracy of the prediction is decreased. This study was conducted to predict the structures of multidomain proteins without the need for whole structure templates.
We improved structure prediction methods by performing rigid-body docking from the structure of each domain and reranking a structure closer to the correct structure to have a higher value. In the proposed method, the score for the domain-domain interaction obtained without a structural template of the multidomain protein and score for the three-dimensional structure obtained during docking calculation were newly incorporated into the score function. We successfully predicted the structures of 50 of 55 multidomain proteins examined in the test dataset.
Interaction residue pair information of the protein-protein complex interface contributes to domain reorganizations even when a structural template for a multidomain protein cannot be obtained. This approach may be useful for predicting the structures of multidomain proteins with important biochemical functions.
In the present study, thermodynamic properties of coarse-grained protein models have been studied by an extended ensemble method. Two types of protein model were analyzed; one is categorized into a fast folder and the other into a slow folder. Both models exhibit the following thermodynamic transitions: the collapse transition between random coil states and spatially compact, but non-native states and the folding transition between the collapsed states and the folded native states. Caloric curve for the fast folder shows strong statistical ensemble dependence, while almost no ensemble dependence is found for the slow folder. Microcanonical caloric curve for the fast folder exhibits S-shaped temperature dependence on the internal energy around the collapse transition which is reminiscent of the van der Waals loop observed for the first order transition; at the transition temperature, the collapsed and random coil states coexist dynamically. The corresponding microcanonical heat capacity is found to have negative region around the transition. This kind of exotic behaviors could be utilized to distinguish fast folding proteins.
Low-complexity (LC) sequences, regions that are predominantly made up of limited amino acids, are often observed in eukaryotic nuclear proteins. The role of these LC sequences has remained unclear for decades. Recent studies have shown that LC sequences are important in the formation of membrane-less organelles via liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS). The RNA binding protein, fused in sarcoma (FUS), is the most widely studied of the proteins that undergo LLPS. It forms droplets, fibers, or hydrogels using its LC sequences. The N-terminal LC sequence of FUS is made up of Ser, Tyr, Gly, and Gln, which form a labile cross-β polymer core while the C-terminal Arg-Gly-Gly repeats accelerate LLPS. Normally, FUS localizes to the nucleus via the nuclear import receptor karyopherin β2 (Kapβ2) with the help of its C-terminal proline-tyrosine nuclear localization signal (PY-NLS). Recent findings revealed that Kapβ2 blocks FUS mediated LLPS, suggesting that Kapβ2 is not only a transport protein but also a chaperone which regulates LLPS during the formation of membrane-less organelles. In this review, we discuss the effects of the nuclear import receptors on LLPS.
A mathematical model of amyloid fiber formation is described that is able to simply specify different rates of fiber breakage at internal versus end regions. This Note presents the derivation of the relevant equations and provides results showing the dramatic effects of position biased fiber breakage on the kinetics of amyloid growth.
The intracellular environment is highly crowded with biomacromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Under such conditions, the structural and biophysical features of nucleic acids have been thought to be different from those in vitro. To obtain high-resolution structural information on nucleic acids in living cells, the in-cell NMR method is a unique tool. Following the first in-cell NMR measurement of nucleic acids in 2009, several interesting insights were obtained using Xenopus laevis oocytes. However, the in-cell NMR spectrum of nucleic acids in living human cells was not reported until two years ago due to the technical challenges of delivering exogenous nucleic acids. We reported the first in-cell NMR spectra of nucleic acids in living human cells in 2018, where we applied a pore-forming toxic protein, streptolysin O. The in-cell NMR measurements demonstrated that the hairpin structures of nucleic acids can be detected in living human cells. In this review article, we summarize our recent work and discuss the future prospects of the in-cell NMR technique for nucleic acids.
Cells communicate with each other to organize multicellular collective systems and assemble complex, elaborate tissue structures by themselves during development. Despite intensive biological studies, what kind of cell-cell communication can sufficiently drive self-organization of specific tissue architectures remain unclear. Thanks to recent advances on genetic engineering technologies, synthetic biologists start to build customized cell-cell communication with user-defined signal input and gene expression output to program multicellular behaviors using mammalian systems. This review article introduces how we can design and engineer customized cell-cell communication to program synthetic self-organizing multicellular structures. Creating tissue formation processes with synthetic genetic programs will help understanding of fundamental principles of how genetic programs drive tissue self-organization and provide new capabilities on tissue engineering for cell-based regenerative therapy applications.
Motor proteins are essential units of life and are well-designed nanomachines working under thermal fluctuations. These proteins control moving direction by consuming chemical energy or by dissipating electrochemical potentials. Chitinase A from bacterium Serratia marcescens (SmChiA) processively moves along crystalline chitin by hydrolysis of a single polymer chain to soluble chitobiose. Recently, we directly observed the stepping motions of SmChiA labeled with a gold nanoparticle by dark-field scattering imaging to investigate the moving mechanism. Time constants analysis revealed that SmChiA moves back and forth along the chain freely, because forward and backward states have a similar free energy level. The similar probabilities of forward-step events (83.5%=69.3%+14.2%) from distributions of step sizes and chain-hydrolysis (86.3%=(1/2.9)/(1/2.9+1/18.3)×100) calculated from the ratios of time constants of hydrolysis and the backward step indicated that SmChiA moves forward as a result of shortening of the chain by a chitobiose unit, which stabilizes the backward state. Furthermore, X-ray crystal structures of sliding intermediate and molecular dynamics simulations showed that SmChiA slides forward and backward under thermal fluctuation without large conformational changes of the protein. Our results demonstrate that SmChiA is a burnt-bridge Brownian ratchet motor.
Microbial rhodopsin is a large family of membrane proteins having seven transmembrane helices (TM1-7) with an all-trans retinal (ATR) chromophore that is covalently bound to Lys in the TM7. The Trp residue in the middle of TM3, which is homologous to W86 of bacteriorhodopsin (BR), is highly conserved among microbial rhodopsins with various light-driven functions. However, the significance of this Trp for the ion transport function of microbial rhodopsins has long remained unknown. Here, we replaced the W163 (BR W86 counterpart) of a channelrhodopsin (ChR), C1C2/ChRWR, which is a chimera between ChR1 and 2, with a smaller aromatic residue, Phe to verify its role in the ion transport. Under whole-cell patch clamp recordings from the ND7/23 cells that were transfected with the DNA plasmid coding human codon optimized C1C2/ChRWR (hWR) or its W163F mutant (hWR-W163F), the photocurrents were evoked by a pulsatile light at 475 nm. The ion-transporting activity of hWR was strongly altered by the W163F mutation in 3 points: (1) the H+ leak at positive membrane potential (Vm) and its light-adaptation, (2) the attenuation of cation channel activity and (3) the manifestation of outward H+ pump activity. All of these results strongly suggest that W163 has a role in stabilizing the structure involved in the gating-on and -off of the cation channel, the role of “gate keeper”. We can attribute the attenuation of cation channel activity to the incomplete gating-on and the H+ leak to the incomplete gating-off.
Cilia or flagella of eukaryotes are small micro-hair like structures that are indispensable to single-cell motility and play an important role in mammalian biological processes. Cilia or flagella are composed of nine doublet microtubules surrounding a pair of singlet microtubules called the central pair (CP). Together, this arrangement forms a canonical and highly conserved 9+2 axonemal structure. The CP, which is a unique structure exclusive to motile cilia, is a pair of structurally dimorphic singlet microtubules decorated with numerous associated proteins. Mutations of CP-associated proteins cause several different physical symptoms termed as ciliopathies. Thus, it is crucial to understand the architecture of the CP. However, the protein composition of the CP was poorly understood. This was because the traditional method of identification of CP proteins was mostly limited by available Chlamydomonas mutants of CP proteins. Recently, more CP protein candidates were presented based on mass spectrometry results, but most of these proteins were not validated. In this study, we re-evaluated the CP proteins by conducting a similar comprehensive CP proteome analysis comparing the mass spectrometry results of the axoneme sample prepared from Chlamydomonas strains with and without CP complex. We identified a similar set of CP protein candidates and additional new 11 CP protein candidates. Furthermore, by using Chlamydomonas strains lacking specific CP sub-structures, we present a more complete model of localization for these CP proteins. This work has established a new foundation for understanding the function of the CP complex in future studies.
An increasing number of proteins, which have neither regular secondary nor well-defined tertiary structures, have been found to be present in cells. The structure of these proteins is highly flexible and disordered under physiological (native) conditions, and they are called “intrinsically disordered” proteins (IDPs). Many of the IDPs are involved in interactions with other biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, carbohydrates, and proteins. While these IDPs are largely unstructured by themselves, marked conformational changes often occur upon binding to an interacting partner, which is known as the “coupled folding and binding mechanism”, which enable them to change the conformation to become compatible with the shape of the multiple target biomolecules. We have studied the structure and interaction of eukaryotic transcription factors Sp1 and TAF4, and found that both of them have long intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs). One of the IDRs in Sp1 exhibited homo-oligomer formation. In addition, the same region was used for the interaction with another IDR found in the TAF4 molecule. In both cases, we have not detected any significant conformational change in that region, suggesting a prominent and novel binding mode for IDPs/IDRs, which are not categorized by the well-accepted concept of the coupled folding and binding mechanism.
PYP-phytochrome related (Ppr) protein contains the two light sensor domains, photoactive yellow protein (PYP) and bacteriophytochrome (Bph), which mainly absorb blue and red light by the chromophores of p-coumaric acid (pCA) and biliverdin (BV), respectively. As a result, Ppr has the ability to photoactivate both domains together or separately. We investigated the photoreaction of each photosensor domain under different light irradiation conditions and clarified the inter-dependency between these domains. Within the first 10 s of blue light illumination, Ppr (Holo-Holo-Ppr) accompanied by both pCA and BV demonstrated spectrum changes reflecting PYPL accumulation, which can also be observed in Ppr containing only pCA (Holo-Apo-Ppr), and a fragment of Ppr lacking the C-terminal Bph domain. Although Holo-Apo-Ppr showed PYPL as a major photoproduct under blue light, as seen in the Bph-truncated Ppr, the equilibrium in the Holo-Holo-Ppr was shifted from PYPL to PYPM as the reaction progresses under blue light. Concomitantly, the spectrum of Bph exhibited subtle but distinguishable alteration. Together with the fact, it can be proposed that Bph with BV influences the photoreaction of PYP in Ppr, and vice versa. SAXS measurements revealed substantial tertiary structure changes in Holo-Holo-Ppr under continuous blue light irradiation within the first 5 min time domain. Interestingly, the changes in tertiary structure were partially suppressed by photoactivation of the Bph domain. These observations indicate that the photoreactions of the PYP and Bph domains are coupled with each other, and that the interplay realizes the structural switch, which might be involved in downstream signal transduction.
Following the discovery of cryptochrome-DASH (CRYD) as a new type of blue-light receptor cryptochrome, theoretical and experimental findings on CRYD have been reported. Early studies identified CRYD as highly homologous to the DNA repair enzyme photolyases (PLs), suggesting the involvement of CRYD in DNA repair. However, an experimental study reported that CRYD does not exhibit DNA repair activity in vivo. Successful PL-mediated DNA repair requires: (i) the recognition of UV-induced DNA lesions and (ii) an electron transfer reaction. If either of them is inefficient, the DNA repair activity will be low.
To elucidate the functional differences between CRYD and PL, we theoretically investigated the electron transfer reactivity and DNA binding affinity of CRYD and also performed supplementary experiments. The average electronic coupling matrix elements value for Arabidopsis thaliana CRYD (AtCRYD) was estimated to be 5.3 meV, comparable to that of Anacystis nidulans cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer PLs (AnPL) at 4.5 meV, indicating similar electron transfer reactivities. We also confirmed the DNA repair activity of AtCRYD for UV-damaged single-stranded DNA by the experimental analysis. In addition, we investigated the dynamic behavior of AtCRYD and AnPL in complex with double-stranded DNA using molecular dynamics simulations and observed the formation of a transient salt bridge between protein and DNA in AtCRYD, in contrast to AnPL in which it was formed stably. We suggested that the instability of the salt bridge between protein and DNA will lead to reduced DNA binding affinity for AtCRYD.
As human-origin cells, human dental pulp stem cells (hDPSCs) are thought to be potentially useful for biological and medical experiments. They are easily obtained from lost primary teeth or extracted wisdom teeth, and they are mesenchymal stem cells that are known to differentiate into osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and adipocytes. Although hDPSCs originate from neural crest cells, it is difficult to induce hDPSCs to differentiate into neuron-like cells. To facilitate their differentiation into neuron-like cells, we evaluated various differentiation conditions. Activation of K+ channels is thought to regulate the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, allowing for manipulation of the cell cycle to induce the differentiation of hDPSCs. Therefore, in addition to a conventional neural cell differentiation protocol, we activated K+ channels in hDPSCs. Immunocytochemistry and real-time PCR revealed that applying a combination of 3 stimuli (high K+ solution, epigenetic reprogramming solution, and neural differentiation solution) to hDPSCs increased their expression of neuronal markers, such as β3-tubulin, postsynaptic density protein 95, and nestin within 5 days, which led to their rapid differentiation into neuron-like cells. Our findings indicate that epigenetic reprogramming along with cell cycle regulation by stimulation with high K+ accelerated the differentiation of hDPSCs into neuron-like cells. Therefore, hDPSCs can be used in various ways as neuron-like cells by manipulating their cell cycle.
The molecular dynamics (MD) method is a promising approach for investigating the molecular mechanisms of microscopic phenomena. In particular, generalized ensemble MD methods can efficiently explore the conformational space with a rugged free-energy surface. However, the implementation and acquisition of technical knowledge for each generalized ensemble MD method are not straightforward for end-users. Here, we present a new version of the myPresto/omegagene software, which is an MD simulation engine tailored for a series of generalized ensemble methods, which are virtual-system coupled multicanonical MD (V-McMD), virtual-system coupled adaptive umbrella sampling (V-AUS), and virtual-system coupled canonical MD (VcMD). This program has been applied in several studies analyzing free-energy landscapes of a variety of molecular systems with all-atom simulations. The updated version provides new functionality for coarse-grained simulations powered by the hydrophobicity scale method. The software package includes a step-by-step tutorial document for enhanced conformational sampling of the poly-glutamine (poly-Q) oligomer expressed as a one-bead per residue model. The myPresto/omegagene software is freely available at the following URL: https://github.com/kotakasahara/omegagene under the Apache2 license.
Intrinsically disordered proteins are those proteins with intrinsically disordered regions. One of the unique characteristics of intrinsically disordered proteins is the existence of functional segments in intrinsically disordered regions. These segments are involved in binding to partner molecules, such as protein and DNA, and play important roles in signaling pathways and/or transcriptional regulation. Although there are databases that gather information on such disordered binding regions, data remain limited. Therefore, it is desirable to develop programs to predict the disordered binding regions without using data for the binding regions. We developed a program, NeProc, to predict the disordered binding regions, which can be regarded as intrinsically disordered regions with a structural propensity. We only used data for the structural domains and intrinsically disordered regions to detect such regions. NeProc accepts a query amino acid sequence converted into a position specific score matrix, and uses two neural networks that employ different window sizes, a neural network of short windows, and a neural network of long windows. The performance of NeProc was comparable to that of existing programs of the disordered binding region prediction. This result presents the possibility to overcome the shortage of the disordered binding region data in the development of the prediction programs for these binding regions. NeProc is available at http://flab.neproc.org/neproc/index.html