Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 679
ThermoMutDB: a thermodynamic database for missense mutations.
(Oxford University Press, 2020-10-23)
Proteins are intricate, dynamic structures, and small changes in their amino acid sequences can lead to large effects on their folding, stability and dynamics. To facilitate the further development and evaluation of methods to predict these changes, we have developed ThermoMutDB, a manually curated database containing >14,669 experimental data of thermodynamic parameters for wild type and mutant proteins. This represents an increase of 83% in unique mutations over previous databases and includes thermodynamic information on 204 new proteins. During manual curation we have also corrected annotation errors in previously curated entries. Associated with each entry, we have included information on the unfolding Gibbs free energy and melting temperature change, and have associated entries with available experimental structural information. ThermoMutDB supports users to contribute to new data points and programmatic access to the database via a RESTful API. ThermoMutDB is freely available at: http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/thermomutdb.
Surface area-to-volume ratio, not cellular viscoelasticity, is the major determinant of red blood cell traversal through small channels.
The remarkable deformability of red blood cells (RBCs) depends on the viscoelasticity of the plasma membrane and cell contents and the surface area to volume (SA:V) ratio; however, it remains unclear which of these factors is the key determinant for passage through small capillaries. We used a microfluidic device to examine the traversal of normal, stiffened, swollen, parasitised and immature RBCs. We show that dramatic stiffening of RBCs had no measurable effect on their ability to traverse small channels. By contrast, a moderate decrease in the SA:V ratio had a marked effect on the equivalent cylinder diameter that is traversable by RBCs of similar cellular viscoelasticity. We developed a finite element model that provides a coherent rationale for the experimental observations, based on the nonlinear mechanical behaviour of the RBC membrane skeleton. We conclude that the SA:V ratio should be given more prominence in studies of RBC pathologies.
DynaMut2: Assessing changes in stability and flexibility upon single and multiple point missense mutations
Predicting the effect of missense variations on protein stability and dynamics is important for understanding their role in diseases, and the link between protein structure and function. Approaches to estimate these changes have been proposed, but most only consider single-point missense variants and a static state of the protein, with those that incorporate dynamics are computationally expensive. Here we present DynaMut2, a web server that combines Normal Mode Analysis (NMA) methods to capture protein motion and our graph-based signatures to represent the wildtype environment to investigate the effects of single and multiple point mutations on protein stability and dynamics. DynaMut2 was able to accurately predict the effects of missense mutations on protein stability, achieving Pearson's correlation of up to 0.72 (RMSE: 1.02 kcal/mol) on a single point and 0.64 (RMSE: 1.80 kcal/mol) on multiple-point missense mutations across 10-fold cross-validation and independent blind tests. For single-point mutations, DynaMut2 achieved comparable performance with other methods when predicting variations in Gibbs Free Energy (ΔΔG) and in melting temperature (ΔTm ). We anticipate our tool to be a valuable suite for the study of protein flexibility analysis and the study of the role of variants in disease. DynaMut2 is freely available as a web server and API at http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/dynamut2.
Virus-Mediated Suppression of the Antigen Presentation Molecule MR1
(CELL PRESS, 2020-03-03)
The antigen-presenting molecule MR1 presents microbial metabolites related to vitamin B2 biosynthesis to mucosal-associated invariant T cells (MAIT cells). Although bacteria and fungi drive the MR1 biosynthesis pathway, viruses have not previously been implicated in MR1 expression or its antigen presentation. We demonstrate that several herpesviruses inhibit MR1 cell surface upregulation, including a potent inhibition by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This virus profoundly suppresses MR1 cell surface expression and targets the molecule for proteasomal degradation, whereas ligand-induced cell surface expression of MR1 prior to infection enables MR1 to escape HSV-1-dependent targeting. HSV-1 downregulation of MR1 is dependent on de novo viral gene expression, and we identify the Us3 viral gene product as functioning to target MR1. Furthermore, HSV-1 downregulation of MR1 disrupts MAIT T cell receptor (TCR) activation. Accordingly, virus-mediated targeting of MR1 defines an immunomodulatory strategy that functionally disrupts the MR1-MAIT TCR axis.
Ancient and conserved functional interplay between Bcl-2 family proteins in the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis
(AMER ASSOC ADVANCEMENT SCIENCE, 2020-09-01)
In metazoans, Bcl-2 family proteins are major regulators of mitochondrially mediated apoptosis; however, their evolution remains poorly understood. Here, we describe the molecular characterization of the four members of the Bcl-2 family in the most primitive metazoan, Trichoplax adhaerens All four trBcl-2 homologs are multimotif Bcl-2 group, with trBcl-2L1 and trBcl-2L2 being highly divergent antiapoptotic Bcl-2 members, whereas trBcl-2L3 and trBcl-2L4 are homologs of proapoptotic Bax and Bak, respectively. trBax expression permeabilizes the mitochondrial outer membrane, while trBak operates as a BH3-only sensitizer repressing antiapoptotic activities of trBcl-2L1 and trBcl-2L2. The crystal structure of a trBcl-2L2:trBak BH3 complex reveals that trBcl-2L2 uses the canonical Bcl-2 ligand binding groove to sequester trBak BH3, indicating that the structural basis for apoptosis control is conserved from T. adhaerens to mammals. Finally, we demonstrate that both trBax and trBak BH3 peptides bind selectively to human Bcl-2 homologs to sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy treatment.
Misfolded alpha-synuclein causes hyperactive respiration without functional deficit in live neuroblastoma cells
(COMPANY BIOLOGISTS LTD, 2020-01-01)
The misfolding and aggregation of the largely disordered protein, α-synuclein, is a central pathogenic event that occurs in the synucleinopathies, a group of neurodegenerative disorders that includes Parkinson's disease. While there is a clear link between protein misfolding and neuronal vulnerability, the precise pathogenic mechanisms employed by disease-associated α-synuclein are unresolved. Here, we studied the pathogenicity of misfolded α-synuclein produced using the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) assay. To do this, previous published methods were adapted to allow PMCA-induced protein fibrillization to occur under non-toxic conditions. Insight into potential intracellular targets of misfolded α-synuclein was obtained using an unbiased lipid screen of 15 biologically relevant lipids that identified cardiolipin (CA) as a potential binding partner for PMCA-generated misfolded α-synuclein. To investigate whether such an interaction can impact the properties of α-synuclein misfolding, protein fibrillization was carried out in the presence of the lipid. We show that CA both accelerates the rate of α-synuclein fibrillization and produces species that harbour enhanced resistance to proteolysis. Because CA is virtually exclusively expressed in the inner mitochondrial membrane, we then assessed the ability of these misfolded species to alter mitochondrial respiration in live non-transgenic SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. Extensive analysis revealed that misfolded α-synuclein causes hyperactive mitochondrial respiration without causing any functional deficit. These data give strong support for the mitochondrion as a target for misfolded α-synuclein and reveal persistent, hyperactive respiration as a potential upstream pathogenic event associated with the synucleinopathies.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Prediction of rifampicin resistance beyond the RRDR using structure-based machine learning approaches.
(Nature Publishing Group, 2020-10-22)
Rifampicin resistance is a major therapeutic challenge, particularly in tuberculosis, leprosy, P. aeruginosa and S. aureus infections, where it develops via missense mutations in gene rpoB. Previously we have highlighted that these mutations reduce protein affinities within the RNA polymerase complex, subsequently reducing nucleic acid affinity. Here, we have used these insights to develop a computational rifampicin resistance predictor capable of identifying resistant mutations even outside the well-defined rifampicin resistance determining region (RRDR), using clinical M. tuberculosis sequencing information. Our tool successfully identified up to 90.9% of M. tuberculosis rpoB variants correctly, with sensitivity of 92.2%, specificity of 83.6% and MCC of 0.69, outperforming the current gold-standard GeneXpert-MTB/RIF. We show our model can be translated to other clinically relevant organisms: M. leprae, P. aeruginosa and S. aureus, despite weak sequence identity. Our method was implemented as an interactive tool, SUSPECT-RIF (StrUctural Susceptibility PrEdiCTion for RIFampicin), freely available at https://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/suspect_rif/ .
A Key Motif in the Cholesterol-Dependent Cytolysins Reveals a Large Family of Related Proteins
(AMER SOC MICROBIOLOGY, 2020-09-01)
The cholesterol-dependent cytolysins (CDCs) are bacterial, β-barrel, pore-forming toxins. A central enigma of the pore-forming mechanism is how completion of the prepore is sensed to initiate its conversion to the pore. We identified a motif that is conserved between the CDCs and a diverse family of nearly 300 uncharacterized proteins present in over 220 species that span at least 10 bacterial and 2 eukaryotic phyla. Except for this motif, these proteins exhibit little similarity to the CDCs at the primary structure level. Studies herein show this motif is a critical component of the sensor that initiates the prepore-to-pore transition in the CDCs. We further show by crystallography, single particle analysis, and biochemical studies of one of these CDC-like (CDCL) proteins from Elizabethkingia anophelis, a commensal of the malarial mosquito midgut, that a high degree of structural similarity exists between the CDC and CDCL monomer structures and both form large oligomeric pore complexes. Furthermore, the conserved motif in the E. anophelis CDCL crystal structure occupies a nearly identical position and makes similar contacts to those observed in the structure of the archetype CDC, perfringolysin O (PFO). This suggests a common function in the CDCs and CDCLs and may explain why only this motif is conserved in the CDCLs. Hence, these studies identify a critical component of the sensor involved in initiating the prepore-to-pore transition in the CDCs, which is conserved in a large and diverse group of distant relatives of the CDCs.IMPORTANCE The cholesterol-dependent cytolysins' pore-forming mechanism relies on the ability to sense the completion of the oligomeric prepore structure and initiate the insertion of the β-barrel pore from the assembled prepore structure. These studies show that a conserved motif is an important component of the sensor that triggers the prepore-to-pore transition and that it is conserved in a large family of previously unidentified CDC-like proteins, the genes for which are present in a vast array of microbial species that span most terrestrial environments, as well as most animal and human microbiomes. These studies establish the foundation for future investigations that will probe the contribution of this large family of CDC-like proteins to microbial survival and human disease.
Risk prediction of late-onset Alzheimer's disease implies an oligogenic architecture
(NATURE RESEARCH, 2020-09-23)
Genetic association studies have identified 44 common genome-wide significant risk loci for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). However, LOAD genetic architecture and prediction are unclear. Here we estimate the optimal P-threshold (Poptimal) of a genetic risk score (GRS) for prediction of LOAD in three independent datasets comprising 676 cases and 35,675 family history proxy cases. We show that the discriminative ability of GRS in LOAD prediction is maximised when selecting a small number of SNPs. Both simulation results and direct estimation indicate that the number of causal common SNPs for LOAD may be less than 100, suggesting LOAD is more oligogenic than polygenic. The best GRS explains approximately 75% of SNP-heritability, and individuals in the top decile of GRS have ten-fold increased odds when compared to those in the bottom decile. In addition, 14 variants are identified that contribute to both LOAD risk and age at onset of LOAD.
GeneMates: an R package for detecting horizontal gene co-transfer between bacteria using gene-gene associations controlled for population structure
BACKGROUND: Horizontal gene transfer contributes to bacterial evolution through mobilising genes across various taxonomical boundaries. It is frequently mediated by mobile genetic elements (MGEs), which may capture, maintain, and rearrange mobile genes and co-mobilise them between bacteria, causing horizontal gene co-transfer (HGcoT). This physical linkage between mobile genes poses a great threat to public health as it facilitates dissemination and co-selection of clinically important genes amongst bacteria. Although rapid accumulation of bacterial whole-genome sequencing data since the 2000s enables study of HGcoT at the population level, results based on genetic co-occurrence counts and simple association tests are usually confounded by bacterial population structure when sampled bacteria belong to the same species, leading to spurious conclusions. RESULTS: We have developed a network approach to explore WGS data for evidence of intraspecies HGcoT and have implemented it in R package GeneMates ( github.com/wanyuac/GeneMates ). The package takes as input an allelic presence-absence matrix of interested genes and a matrix of core-genome single-nucleotide polymorphisms, performs association tests with linear mixed models controlled for population structure, produces a network of significantly associated alleles, and identifies clusters within the network as plausible co-transferred alleles. GeneMates users may choose to score consistency of allelic physical distances measured in genome assemblies using a novel approach we have developed and overlay scores to the network for further evidence of HGcoT. Validation studies of GeneMates on known acquired antimicrobial resistance genes in Escherichia coli and Salmonella Typhimurium show advantages of our network approach over simple association analysis: (1) distinguishing between allelic co-occurrence driven by HGcoT and that driven by clonal reproduction, (2) evaluating effects of population structure on allelic co-occurrence, and (3) direct links between allele clusters in the network and MGEs when physical distances are incorporated. CONCLUSION: GeneMates offers an effective approach to detection of intraspecies HGcoT using WGS data.