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BMC Structural Biology - Latest Articles   [more] [xml]
 2014-07-19T00:00:00Z A simple method for finding a protein¿s ligand-binding pockets
Background: This paper provides a simple and rapid method for a protein-clustering strategy. The basic idea implemented here is to use computational geometry methods to predict and characterize ligand-binding pockets of a given protein structure. In addition to geometrical characteristics of the protein structure, we consider some simple biochemical properties that help recognize the best candidates for pockets in a protein’s active site. Results: Our results are shown to produce good agreement with known empirical results. Conclusions: The method presented in this paper is a low-cost rapid computational method that could be used to classify proteins and other biomolecules, and furthermore could be useful in reducing the cost and time of drug discovery.
 2014-07-07T00:00:00Z Characterization of the SAM domain of the PKD-related protein ANKS6 and its interaction with ANKS3
Background: Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common genetic disorder leading to end-stage renal failure in humans. In the PKD/Mhm(cy/+) rat model of ADPKD, the point mutation R823W in the sterile alpha motif (SAM) domain of the protein ANKS6 is responsible for disease. SAM domains are known protein-protein interaction domains, capable of binding each other to form polymers and heterodimers. Despite its physiological importance, little is known about the function of ANKS6 and how the R823W point mutation leads to PKD. Recent work has revealed that ANKS6 interacts with a related protein called ANKS3. Both ANKS6 and ANKS3 have a similar domain structure, with ankyrin repeats at the N-terminus and a SAM domain at the C-terminus. Results: The SAM domain of ANKS3 is identified as a direct binding partner of the ANKS6 SAM domain. We find that ANKS3-SAM polymerizes and ANKS6-SAM can bind to one end of the polymer. We present crystal structures of both the ANKS3-SAM polymer and the ANKS3-SAM/ANKS6-SAM complex, revealing the molecular details of their association. We also learn how the R823W mutation disrupts ANKS6 function by dramatically destabilizing the SAM domain such that the interaction with ANKS3-SAM is lost. Conclusions: ANKS3 is a direct interacting partner of ANKS6. By structurally and biochemically characterizing the interaction between the ANKS3 and ANKS6 SAM domains, our work provides a basis for future investigation of how the interaction between these proteins mediates kidney function.
 2014-05-29T00:00:00Z High-resolution crystal structure of spin labelled (T21R1) azurin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a challenging structural benchmark for in silico spin labelling algorithms
Background: EPR-based distance measurements between spin labels in proteins have become a valuable tool in structural biology. The direct translation of the experimental distances into structural information is however often impaired by the intrinsic flexibility of the spin labelled side chains. Different algorithms exist that predict the approximate conformation of the spin label either by using pre-computed rotamer libraries of the labelled side chain (rotamer approach) or by simply determining its accessible volume (accessible volume approach). Surprisingly, comparisons with many experimental distances have shown that both approaches deliver the same distance prediction accuracy of about 3 Å. Results: Here, instead of comparing predicted and experimental distances, we test the ability of both approaches to predict the actual conformations of spin labels found in a new high-resolution crystal structure of spin labelled azurin (T21R1). Inside the crystal, the label is found in two very different environments which serve as a challenging test for the in silico approaches. Conclusions: Our results illustrate why simple and more sophisticated programs lead to the same prediciton error. Thus, a more precise treatment of the complete environment of the label and also its interactions with the environment will be needed to increase the accuracy of in silico spin labelling algorithms.
 2014-05-23T00:00:00Z Sequence analysis on the information of folding initiation segments in ferredoxin-like fold proteins
Background: While some studies have shown that the 3D protein structures are more conservative than their amino acid sequences, other experimental studies have shown that even if two proteins share the same topology, they may have different folding pathways. There are many studies investigating this issue with molecular dynamics or Go-like model simulations, however, one should be able to obtain the same information by analyzing the proteins’ amino acid sequences, if the sequences contain all the information about the 3D structures. In this study, we use information about protein sequences to predict the location of their folding segments. We focus on proteins with a ferredoxin-like fold, which has a characteristic topology. Some of these proteins have different folding segments. Results: Despite the simplicity of our methods, we are able to correctly determine the experimentally identified folding segments by predicting the location of the compact regions considered to play an important role in structural formation. We also apply our sequence analyses to some homologues of each protein and confirm that there are highly conserved folding segments despite the homologues’ sequence diversity. These homologues have similar folding segments even though the homology of two proteins’ sequences is not so high. Conclusion: Our analyses have proven useful for investigating the common or different folding features of the proteins studied.
 2014-04-24T00:00:00Z High resolution structure of cleaved Serpin 42 Da from Drosophila melanogaster
Background: The Drosophila melanogaster Serpin 42 Da gene (previously Serpin 4) encodes a serine protease inhibitor that is capable of remarkable functional diversity through the alternative splicing of four different reactive centre loop exons. Eight protein isoforms of Serpin 42 Da have been identified to date, targeting the protease inhibitor to both different proteases and cellular locations. Biochemical and genetic studies suggest that Serpin 42 Da inhibits target proteases through the classical serpin ‘suicide’ inhibition mechanism, however the crystal structure of a representative Serpin 42 Da isoform remains to be determined. Results: We report two high-resolution crystal structures of Serpin 42 Da representing the A/B isoforms in the cleaved conformation, belonging to two different space-groups and diffracting to 1.7 Å and 1.8 Å. Structural analysis reveals the archetypal serpin fold, with the major elements of secondary structure displaying significant homology to the vertebrate serpin, neuroserpin. Key residues known to have central roles in the serpin inhibitory mechanism are conserved in both the hinge and shutter regions of Serpin 42 Da. Furthermore, these structures identify important conserved interactions that appear to be of crucial importance in allowing the Serpin 42 Da fold to act as a versatile template for multiple reactive centre loops that have different sequences and protease specificities. Conclusions: In combination with previous biochemical and genetic studies, these structures confirm for the first time that the Serpin 42 Da isoforms are typical inhibitory serpin family members with the conserved serpin fold and inhibitory mechanism. Additionally, these data reveal the remarkable structural plasticity of serpins, whereby the basic fold is harnessed as a template for inhibition of a large spectrum of proteases by reactive centre loop exon ‘switching’. This is the first structure of a Drosophila serpin reported to date, and will provide a platform for future mutational studies in Drosophila to ascertain the functional role of each of the Serpin 42 Da isoforms.
 2014-04-15T00:00:00Z Designing and evaluating the MULTICOM protein local and global model quality prediction methods in the CASP10 experiment
Background: Protein model quality assessment is an essential component of generating and using protein structural models. During the Tenth Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP10), we developed and tested four automated methods (MULTICOM-REFINE, MULTICOM-CLUSTER, MULTICOM-NOVEL, and MULTICOM-CONSTRUCT) that predicted both local and global quality of protein structural models. Results: MULTICOM-REFINE was a clustering approach that used the average pairwise structural similarity between models to measure the global quality and the average Euclidean distance between a model and several top ranked models to measure the local quality. MULTICOM-CLUSTER and MULTICOM-NOVEL were two new support vector machine-based methods of predicting both the local and global quality of a single protein model. MULTICOM-CONSTRUCT was a new weighted pairwise model comparison (clustering) method that used the weighted average similarity between models in a pool to measure the global model quality. Our experiments showed that the pairwise model assessment methods worked better when a large portion of models in the pool were of good quality, whereas single-model quality assessment methods performed better on some hard targets when only a small portion of models in the pool were of reasonable quality. Conclusions: Since digging out a few good models from a large pool of low-quality models is a major challenge in protein structure prediction, single model quality assessment methods appear to be poised to make important contributions to protein structure modeling. The other interesting finding was that single-model quality assessment scores could be used to weight the models by the consensus pairwise model comparison method to improve its accuracy.
 2014-03-27T00:00:00Z Crystal structure of an engineered YopM-InlB hybrid protein
Background: The multi-domain protein InlB (internalin B) from Listeria monocytogenes is an agonist of the human receptor tyrosine kinase MET. Only the internalin domain directly interacts with MET. The internalin domain consists of seven central leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) flanked by an N-terminal helical cap domain and a C-terminal immunoglobulin-like structure. A potential function of the N-terminal cap in receptor binding could so far not be demonstrated by deleting the cap, since the cap is also implicated in nucleating folding of the LRR domain. Results: We generated an InlB variant (YopM-InlB) in which the InlB cap domain was replaced by the unrelated N-terminal capping structure of the LRR protein YopM from Yersinia enterocolitica. The crystal structure of the engineered protein shows that it folds properly. Because the first LRR is structurally closely linked to the cap domain, we exchanged LRR1 along with the cap domain. This resulted in unexpected structural changes extending to LRR2 and LRR3, which are deeply involved in MET binding. As a consequence, the binding of YopM-InlB to MET was substantially weaker than that of wild type InlB. The engineered protein was about one order of magnitude less active in colony scatter assays than wild type InlB. Conclusions: We obtained a well-behaved InlB variant with an altered N-terminal capping structure through protein design. The reduced affinity for MET precludes a straightforward interpretation of the results from cell-based assays. Still, the engineered hybrid protein induced cell scatter, suggesting that the cap is required for folding and stability of InlB but is not essential for interactions that assemble the signalling-active receptor complex. The cap swap approach described here is clearly applicable to other L. monocytogenes internalins and other LRR proteins such as YopM and may yield useful structure/function correlates within this protein family.
 2014-03-19T00:00:00Z A Sco protein among the hypothetical proteins of Bacillus lehensis G1: Its 3D macromolecular structure and association with Cytochrome C Oxidase
Background: At least a quarter of any complete genome encodes for hypothetical proteins (HPs) which are largely non-similar to other known, well-characterized proteins. Predicting and solving their structures and functions is imperative to aid understanding of any given organism as a complete biological system. The present study highlights the primary effort to classify and cluster 1202 HPs of Bacillus lehensis G1 alkaliphile to serve as a platform to mine and select specific HP(s) to be studied further in greater detail. Results: All HPs of B. lehensis G1 were grouped according to their predicted functions based on the presence of functional domains in their sequences. From the metal-binding group of HPs of the cluster, an HP termed Bleg1_2507 was discovered to contain a thioredoxin (Trx) domain and highly-conserved metal-binding ligands represented by Cys69, Cys73 and His159, similar to all prokaryotic and eukaryotic Sco proteins. The built 3D structure of Bleg1_2507 showed that it shared the βαβαββ core structure of Trx-like proteins as well as three flanking β-sheets, a 310 –helix at the N-terminus and a hairpin structure unique to Sco proteins. Docking simulations provided an interesting view of Bleg1_2507 in association with its putative cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COXII) redox partner, Bleg1_2337, where the latter can be seen to hold its partner in an embrace, facilitated by hydrophobic and ionic interactions between the proteins. Although Bleg1_2507 shares relatively low sequence identity (47%) to BsSco, interestingly, the predicted metal-binding residues of Bleg1_2507 i.e. Cys-69, Cys-73 and His-159 were located at flexible active loops similar to other Sco proteins across biological taxa. This highlights structural conservation of Sco despite their various functions in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Conclusions: We propose that HP Bleg1_2507 is a Sco protein which is able to interact with COXII, its redox partner and therefore, may possess metallochaperone and redox functions similar to other documented bacterial Sco proteins. It is hoped that this scientific effort will help to spur the search for other physiologically relevant proteins among the so-called “orphan” proteins of any given organism.
 2014-03-14T00:00:00Z Structural insights into Noonan/LEOPARD syndrome-related mutants of protein-tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 (PTPN11)
Background: The ubiquitous non-receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 (encoded by PTPN11) plays a key role in RAS/ERK signaling downstream of most, if not all growth factors, cytokines and integrins, although its major substrates remain controversial. Mutations in PTPN11 lead to several distinct human diseases. Germ-line PTPN11 mutations cause about 50% of Noonan Syndrome (NS), which is among the most common autosomal dominant disorders. LEOPARD Syndrome (LS) is an acronym for its major syndromic manifestations: multiple Lentigines, Electrocardiographic abnormalities, Ocular hypertelorism, Pulmonary stenosis, Abnormalities of genitalia, Retardation of growth, and sensorineural Deafness. Frequently, LS patients have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and they might also have an increased risk of neuroblastoma (NS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Consistent with the distinct pathogenesis of NS and LS, different types of PTPN11 mutations cause these disorders. Results: Although multiple studies have reported the biochemical and biological consequences of NS- and LS-associated PTPN11 mutations, their structural consequences have not been analyzed fully. Here we report the crystal structures of WT SHP2 and five NS/LS-associated SHP2 mutants. These findings enable direct structural comparisons of the local conformational changes caused by each mutation. Conclusions: Our structural analysis agrees with, and provides additional mechanistic insight into, the previously reported catalytic properties of these mutants. The results of our research provide new information regarding the structure-function relationship of this medically important target, and should serve as a solid foundation for structure-based drug discovery programs.
 2014-03-11T00:00:00Z Structural interrogation of phosphoproteome identified by mass spectrometry reveals allowed and disallowed regions of phosphoconformation
Background: High-throughput mass spectrometric (HT-MS) study is the method of choice for monitoring global changes in proteome. Data derived from these studies are meant for further validation and experimentation to discover novel biological insights. Here we evaluate use of relative solvent accessible surface area (rSASA) and DEPTH as indices to assess experimentally determined phosphorylation events deposited in PhosphoSitePlus. Results: Based on accessibility, we map these identifications on allowed (accessible) or disallowed (inaccessible) regions of phosphoconformation. Surprisingly a striking number of HT-MS/MS derived events (1461/5947 sites or 24.6%) are present in the disallowed region of conformation. By considering protein dynamics, autophosphorylation events and/or the sequence specificity of kinases, 13.8% of these phosphosites can be moved to the allowed region of conformation. We also demonstrate that rSASA values can be used to increase the confidence of identification of phosphorylation sites within an ambiguous MS dataset. Conclusion: While MS is a stand-alone technique for the identification of vast majority of phosphorylation events, identifications within disallowed region of conformation will benefit from techniques that independently probe for phosphorylation and protein dynamics. Our studies also imply that trapping alternate protein conformations may be a viable alternative to the design of inhibitors against mutation prone drug resistance kinases.


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BMC Bioinformatics - Latest Articles   [more] [xml]
 2014-08-23T00:00:00Z A Generalizable NLP Framework for Fast Development of Pattern-based Biomedical Relation Extraction Systems
Background: Text mining is increasingly used in the biomedical domain because of its ability to automatically gather information from large amount of scientific articles. One important task in biomedical text mining is relation extraction, which aims to identify designated relations among biological entities reported in literature. A relation extraction system achieving high performance is expensive to develop because of the substantial time and effort required for its design and implementation. Here, we report a novel framework to facilitate the development of a pattern-based biomedical relation extraction system. It has several unique design features: (1) leveraging syntactic variations possible in a language and automatically generating extraction patterns in a systematic manner, (2) applying sentence simplification to improve the coverage of extraction patterns, and (3) identifying referential relations between a syntactic argument of a predicate and the actual target expected in the relation extraction task. Results: A relation extraction system derived using the proposed framework achieved overall F-scores of 72.66% for the Simple events and 55.57% for the Binding events on the BioNLP-ST 2011 GE test set, comparing favorably with the top performing systems that participated in the BioNLP-ST 2011 GE task. We obtained similar results on the BioNLP-ST 2013 GE test set (80.07% and 60.58%, respectively). We conducted additional experiments on the training and development sets to provide a more detailed analysis of the system and its individual modules. This analysis indicates that without increasing the number of patterns, simplification and referential relation linking play a key role in the effective extraction of biomedical relations. Conclusions: In this paper, we present a novel framework for fast development of relation extraction systems. The framework requires only a list of triggers as input, and does not need information from an annotated corpus. Thus, we reduce the involvement of domain experts, who would otherwise have to provide manual annotations and help with the design of hand crafted patterns. We demonstrate how our framework is used to develop a system which achieves state-of-the-art performance on a public benchmark corpus.


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BMC Genomics - Latest Articles   [more] [xml]
 2014-08-23T00:00:00Z Genome resequencing and bioinformatic analysis of SNP containing candidate genes in the autoimmune vitiligo Smyth line chicken model
Background: The Smyth line (SL) chicken is the only animal model for autoimmune vitiligo that spontaneously displays all clinical and biological manifestations of the human disorder. To understand the genetic components underlying the susceptibility to develop SL vitiligo (SLV), whole genome resequencing analysis was performed in SLV chickens compared with non-vitiliginous parental Brown line (BL) chickens, which maintain a very low incidence rate of vitiligo. Results: Illumina sequencing technology and reference based assembly on Red Jungle Fowl genome sequences were used. Results of genome resequencing of pooled DNA of each 10 BL and SL chickens reached 5.1x and 7.0x coverage, respectively. The total number of SNPs was 4.8 and 5.5 million in BL and SL genome, respectively. Through a series of filtering processes, a total of ~1 million unique SNPs were found in the SL alone. Eventually of the 156 reliable marker SNPs, which can induce non-synonymous-, frameshift-, nonsense-, and no-start mutations in amino acid sequences in proteins, 139 genes were chosen for further analysis. Of these, 14 randomly chosen SNPs were examined for SNP verification by PCR and Sanger sequencing to detect SNP positions in 20 BL and 70 SL chickens. The results of the analysis of the 14 SNPs clearly showed differential frequencies of nucleotide bases in the SNP positions between BL and SL chickens. Bioinformatic analysis showed that the 156 most reliable marker SNPs included genes involved in dermatological diseases/conditions such as ADAMTS13, ASPM, ATP6V0A2, BRCA2, COL12A1, GRM5, LRP2, OBSCN, PLAU, RNF168, STAB2, and XIRP1. Intermolecular gene network analysis revealed that candidate genes identified in SLV play a role in networks centered protein kinases (MAPK, ERK1/2, PKC, PRKDC), phosphatase (PPP1CA), ubiquitinylation (UBC) and amyloid production (APP). Conclusions: Various potential genetic markers showing amino acid changes and potential roles in vitiligo development were identified in the SLV chicken through genome resequencing. The genetic markers and bioinformatic interpretations of amino acid mutations found in SLV chickens may provide insight into the genetic component responsible for the onset and the progression of autoimmune vitiligo and serve as valuable markers to develop diagnostic tools to detect vitiligo susceptibility.


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BMC Biochemistry - Latest Articles   [more] [xml]
 2014-08-09T00:00:00Z Comparative analysis of diosgenin in Dioscorea species and related medicinal plants by UPLC-DAD-MS
Background: Dioscorea is a genus of flowering plants, and some Dioscorea species are known and used as a source for the steroidal sapogenin diosgenin. To screen potential resource from Dioscorea species and related medicinal plants for diosgenin extraction, a rapid method to compare the contents of diosgenin in various plants is crucial. Results: An ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled with diode array detection (DAD) and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) method was developed for identification and determination of diosgenin in various plants. A comprehensive validation of the developed method was conducted. Twenty-four batches of plant samples from four Dioscorea species, one Smilax species and two Heterosmilax species were analyzed by using the developed method.The present method presented good sensitivity, precision and accuracy. Diosgenin was found in three Dioscorea species and one Heterosmilax species, namely D. zingiberensis, D. septemloba, D. collettii and H. yunnanensis. Conclusion: The method is suitable for the screening of diosgenin resources from plants. D. zingiberensis is an important resource for diosgenin harvesting.


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Nature   [more] [xml]
 2005-01-19 Einstein is dead
Until its next revolution, much of the glory of physics will be in engineering. It is a shame that the physicists who do so much of it keep so quiet about it.

Einstein is dead

Nature 433, 179 (2005). doi:10.1038/433179a

Until its next revolution, much of the glory of physics will be in engineering. It is a shame that the physicists who do so much of it keep so quiet about it.



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Science: Current Issue   [more] [xml]
 2014-08-22 [Editorial] A swan in the making
Reproducibility is the ugly duckling of science. It provokes distress, denial, and passionate calls for action. With $1.5 trillion spent globally each year on R&D,* the idea that 80% of it is irreproducible† can cause downright dread. It threatens the foundations and credibility of the scientific enterprise. But look past the surface, and reproducibility may well be a swan in the making. Author: Timothy Gardner

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