RTK-RAS-MAPK systems are major signaling pathways for cell fate decisions. Among the several RTK species, it is known that the transient activation of ERK (MAPK) stimulates cell proliferation, whereas its sustained activation induces cell differentiation. In both instances however, RAS activation is transient, suggesting that the strict temporal regulation of its activity is critical in normal cells. RAS on the cytoplasmic side of the plasma membrane is activated by SOS through the recruitment of GRB2/SOS complex to the RTKs that are phosphorylated after stimulation with growth factors. The adaptor protein GRB2 recognizes phospho-RTKs both directly and indirectly via another adaptor protein, SHC. We here studied the regulation of GRB2 recruitment under the SHC pathway using single-molecule imaging and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in living cells. We stimulated MCF7 cells with a differentiation factor, heregulin, and observed the translocation, complex formation, and phosphorylation of cell signaling molecules including GRB2 and SHC. Our results suggest a biphasic regulation of the GRB2/SOS-RAS pathway by SHC: At the early stage (<10 min) of stimulation, SHC increased the amplitude of RAS activity by increasing the association sites for the GRB2/SOS complex on the plasma membrane. At the later stage however, SHC suppressed RAS activation and sequestered GRB2 molecules from the membrane through the complex formation in the cytoplasm. The latter mechanism functions additively to other mechanisms of negative feedback regulation of RAS from MEK and/or ERK to complete the transient activation dynamics of RAS.
The distinguished feature of neutron as a scattering probe is an isotope effect, especially the large difference in neutron scattering length between hydrogen and deuterium. The difference renders the different visibility between hydrogenated and deuterated proteins. Therefore, the combination of deuterated protein and neutron scattering enables the selective visualization of a target domain in the complex or a target protein in the multi-component system. Despite of this fascinating character, there exist several problems for the general use of this method: difficulty and high cost for protein deuteration, and control and determination of deuteration ratio of the sample. To resolve them, the protocol of protein deuteration techniques is presented in this report. It is strongly expected that this protocol will offer more opportunity for conducting the neutron scattering studies with deuterated proteins.
PCR diagnosis has been considered as the gold standard for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and other many diseases. However, there are many problems in using PCR, such as non-specific (i.e., false-positive) and false-negative amplifications, the limits of a target sample volume, deactivation of the enzymes used, complicated techniques, difficulty in designing probe sequences, and the expense. We, thus, need an alternative to PCR, for example an ultrasensitive antigen test. In the present review, we summarize the following three topics. (1) The problems of PCR are outlined. (2) The antigen tests are surveyed in the literature that was published in 2020, and their pros and cons are discussed for commercially available antigen tests. (3) Our own antigen test on the basis of an ultrasensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is introduced. Finally, we discuss the possibility that our antigen test by an ultrasensitive ELISA technique will become the gold standard for diagnosis of COVID-19 and other diseases.
Structural studies of color visual pigments lag far behind those of rhodopsin for scotopic vision. Using difference FTIR spectroscopy at 77 K, we report the first structural data of three primate color visual pigments, monkey red (MR), green (MG), and blue (MB), where the batho-intermediate (Batho) exhibits photoequilibrium with the unphotolyzed state. This photochromic property is highly advantageous for limited samples since the signal-to-noise ratio is improved, but may not be applicable to late intermediates, because of large structural changes to proteins. Here we report the photochromic property of MB at 163 K, where the BL intermediate, formed by the relaxation of Batho, is in photoequilibrium with the initial MB state. A comparison of the difference FTIR spectra at 77 and 163 K provided information on what happens in the process of transition from Batho to BL in MB. The coupled C11=C12 HOOP vibration in the planer structure in MB is decoupled by distortion in Batho after retinal photoisomerization, but returns to the coupled C11=C12 HOOP vibration in the all-trans chromophore in BL. The Batho formation accompanies helical structural perturbation, which is relaxed in BL. Protein-bound water molecules that form an extended water cluster near the retinal chromophore change hydrogen bonds differently for Batho and BL, being stronger in the latter than in the initial state. In addition to structural dynamics, the present FTIR spectra show no signals of protonated carboxylic acids at 77 and 163 K, suggesting that E181 is deprotonated in MB, Batho and BL.
Previously, the structure elements of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) were determined using comprehensive Ala-insertion mutation analysis, which is assumed to be a kind of protein “building blocks.” It is hypothesized that our comprehension of the structure elements could lead to understanding how an amino acid sequence dictates its tertiary structure. However, the comprehensive Ala-insertion mutation analysis is a time- and cost-consuming process and only a set of the DHFR structure elements have been reported so far. Therefore, developing a computational method to predict structure elements is an urgent necessity. We focused on intramolecular residue–residue contacts to predict the structure elements. We introduced a simple and effective parameter: the overlapped contact volume (CV) among the residues and calculated the CV along the DHFR sequence using the crystal structure. Our results indicate that the CV profile can recapitulate its precipitate ratio profile, which was used to define the structure elements in the Ala-insertion mutation analysis. The CV profile allowed us to predict structure elements like the experimentally determined structure elements. The strong correlation between the CV and precipitate ratio profiles indicates the importance of the intramolecular residue–residue contact in maintaining the tertiary structure. Additionally, the CVs between the structure elements are considerably more than those between a structure element and a linker or two linkers, indicating that the structure elements play a fundamental role in increasing the intramolecular adhesion. Thus, we propose that the structure elements can be considered a type of “building blocks” that maintain and dictate the tertiary structures of proteins.
The hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) and the V protein of paramyxovirus simian virus 5 (SV5-V) interact with DNA damage-binding protein 1 (DDB1), a cellular enzyme involved in DNA repair and cell cycle regulation, to stimulate viral activity. DDB1 has several cellular substrates, and the amino acid sequences of the binding sites in the viral proteins and their substrates are notably dissimilar. To determine whether HBx binds preferentially to DDB1, despite differences in the amino acid sequences, we developed a system to monitor DDB1 binding in living cells through a protein-protein visualization system, designated fluorescent-based technology detecting protein-protein interactions (Fluoppi). HBx in association with DDB1 formed clear fluorescent puncta. The number of these fluorescent puncta increased with an increase in the amount of HBx. The binding of HBx to DDB1 inhibited the cellular substrate DDB1-CUL4A-associated factor 9 (DCAF9) from binding to DDB1. The inhibitor nitazoxanide prevented the viral proteins HBx and SV5-V from binding to DDB1 but did not inhibit the binding of DCAF9 or HBx(ΔNC), which constitutes the binding site of HBx. Our results demonstrate that the Fluoppi system is useful for monitoring the binding of HBx to DDB1 as well as for examining the effect of drugs on DDB1-Hbx binding.
The minimum DNA-binding domain of the transcriptional factor c-Myb R2R3 remarkably fluctuates in the solution. In the present study, we evaluated the protein fluctuation of R2R3 C130I mutant, R2R3*, on its DNA-binding and folding thermodynamics. DNA-binding analysis using isothermal titration calorimetry revealed that the heat capacity change determined from the correlation between temperature and binding enthalpy change is highly negative above 35°C, indicating that the fluctuation increases with increasing temperature and elevates the conformational change on DNA binding. The results were in accordance with those of differential scanning calorimetry, which revealed that the heat capacity corresponding to thermal denaturation gradually increased above 35°C, followed by the broad transition peak. In contrast, the transition peak of R2R3* in the DNA-bound state was sharper and larger than that in the DNA-unbound state. The fluctuating form could transform into lesser fluctuating form upon DNA binding, resulting in a larger enthalpy change for denaturation of R2R3* in the DNA-bound state. It should also be noted that R2R3* could specifically bind to DNA around thermal denaturation temperature. This would be due to proteins with numerous fluctuations. Moreover, we discuss specific and non-specific DNA binding accompanied by the conformational change between well-ordered and disordered forms of R2R3* observed around the denaturation temperature.
The effects of high pressure (40–70 MPa) on the structure and function of myofibrils were investigated by high pressure microscopy. When this pressure was applied to myofibrils immersed in relaxing solution, the sarcomere length remained almost unchanged, and the A band became shorter and wider. The higher the applied pressure, the faster the change. However, shortening and widening of the A band were not observed when pressure was applied to myofibrils immersed in a solution obtained by omitting ATP from the relaxing solution. However, even under these conditions, structural loss, such as loss of the Z-line structure, occurred. In order to evaluate the consequences of this pressure-treated myofibril, the oscillatory movement of sarcomere (sarcomeric oscillation) was evoked and observed. It was possible to induce sarcomeric oscillation even in pressure-treated myofibrils whose structure was destroyed. The pressurization reduced the total power of the sarcomeric oscillation, but did not change the average frequency. The average frequency did not change even when a pressure of about 40 MPa was applied during sarcomeric oscillation. The average frequency returned to the original when the pressure was returned to the original value after applying stronger pressure to prevent the sarcomere oscillation from being observed. This result suggests that the decrease in the number of myosin molecules forming the crossbridge does not affect the average frequency of sarcomeric oscillation. This fact will help build a mechanical hypothesis for sarcomeric oscillation. The pressurization treatment is a unique method for controlling the structure of myofibrils as described above.
Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is an important experimental technique for the structural analysis of biomolecules that are difficult or impossible to crystallize. The three-dimensional structure of a biomolecule can be reconstructed using two-dimensional electron-density maps, which are experimentally sampled via the electron beam irradiation of vitreous ice in which the target biomolecules are embedded. One assumption required for this reconstruction is that the orientation of the biomolecules in the vitreous ice is isotropic. However, this is not always the case and two-dimensional electron-density maps are often sampled using preferred biomolecular orientations, which can make reconstruction difficult or impossible. Compensation for under-represented views is computationally feasible for the reconstruction of three-dimensional electron density maps, but one must know whether or not there is any missing information in the sampled two-dimensional electron density maps. Thus, a measure to identify whether a cryo-EM data is obtained from the biomolecules adopting preferred orientations is required. In the present study, we propose a measure for which the geometry of manifold projected onto a low-dimensional space is used. To show the usefulness of the measure, we perform simulations for cryo-EM experiment of a protein. It is found that the geometry of manifold projected onto a two-dimensional space for a protein adopting a preferred biomolecular orientation is significantly different from that for a protein adopting a uniform orientation. This result suggests that the geometry of manifold projected onto a low-dimensional space can be used for the measure for the identification that the biomolecules adopt preferred orientations.
Marine bacterial TAT rhodopsin possesses the pKa of the retinal Schiff base, the chromophore, at neutral pH, and photoexcitation of the visible protonated state forms the isomerized 13-cis state, but reverts to the original state within 10–5 sec. To understand the origin of these unique molecular properties of TAT rhodopsin, we mutated Thr82 into Asp, because many microbial rhodopsins contain Asp at the corresponding position as the Schiff base counterion. A pH titration study revealed that the pKa of the Schiff base increased considerably in T82D (>10.5), and that the pKa of the counterion, which is likely to be D82, is 8.1. It was thus concluded that T82 is the origin of the neutral pKa of the Schiff base in TAT rhodopsin. The photocycle of T82D TAT rhodopsin exhibited strong pH dependence. When pH is lower than the pKa of the counterion (pH <8.1), formation of the primary K intermediate was observed by low-temperature UV-visible spectroscopy, but flash photolysis failed to monitor photointermdiates at >10–5 sec. The results were identical for the wild-type TAT rhodopsin. In contrast, when pH was higher than the pKa of the counterion, we observed the formation of the M intermediate, which decayed with the time constants of 3.75 ms and 12.2 sec. It is likely that the protonation state of D82 dramatically switches the photoreaction dynamics of T82D, whose duration lies between <10–5 sec and >10 sec. It was thus concluded that T82 is one of the determinants of the unique photochemistry of TAT rhodopsin.