Publications by authors named "Enrico Malito"

39 Publications

Convergent structural features of respiratory syncytial virus neutralizing antibodies and plasticity of the site V epitope on prefusion F.

PLoS Pathog 2020 11 2;16(11):e1008943. Epub 2020 Nov 2.

GSK, Rockville, MD, United States of America.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a global public health burden for which no licensed vaccine exists. To aid vaccine development via increased understanding of the protective antibody response to RSV prefusion glycoprotein F (PreF), we performed structural and functional studies using the human neutralizing antibody (nAb) RSB1. The crystal structure of PreF complexed with RSB1 reveals a conformational, pre-fusion specific site V epitope with a unique cross-protomer binding mechanism. We identify shared structural features between nAbs RSB1 and CR9501, elucidating for the first time how diverse germlines obtained from different subjects can develop convergent molecular mechanisms for recognition of the same PreF site of vulnerability. Importantly, RSB1-like nAbs were induced upon immunization with PreF in naturally-primed cattle. Together, this work reveals new details underlying the immunogenicity of site V and further supports PreF-based vaccine development efforts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008943DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660905PMC
November 2020

Structure, dynamics and immunogenicity of a catalytically inactive CC chemokine-degrading protease SpyCEP from .

Comput Struct Biotechnol J 2020 13;18:650-660. Epub 2020 Mar 13.

Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, SW7 2AZ, UK.

Over 18 million disease cases and half a million deaths worldwide are estimated to be caused annually by Group A Streptococcus. A vaccine to prevent GAS disease is urgently needed. SpyCEP (Streptococcus Cell-Envelope Proteinase) is a surface-exposed serine protease that inactivates chemokines, impairing neutrophil recruitment and bacterial clearance, and has shown promising immunogenicity in preclinical models. Although SpyCEP structure has been partially characterized, a more complete and higher resolution understanding of its antigenic features would be desirable prior to large scale manufacturing. To address these gaps and facilitate development of this globally important vaccine, we performed immunogenicity studies with a safety-engineered SpyCEP mutant, and comprehensively characterized its structure by combining X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations. We found that the catalytically-inactive SpyCEP antigen conferred protection similar to wild-type SpyCEP in a mouse infection model. Further, a new higher-resolution crystal structure of the inactive SpyCEP mutant provided new insights into this large chemokine protease comprising nine domains derived from two non-covalently linked fragments. NMR spectroscopy and molecular simulation analyses revealed conformational flexibility that is likely important for optimal substrate recognition and overall function. These combined immunogenicity and structural data demonstrate that the full-length SpyCEP inactive mutant is a strong candidate human vaccine antigen. These findings show how a multi-disciplinary study was used to overcome obstacles in the development of a GAS vaccine, an approach applicable to other future vaccine programs. Moreover, the information provided may also facilitate the structure-based discovery of small-molecule therapeutics targeting SpyCEP protease inhibition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csbj.2020.03.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113628PMC
March 2020

NadA3 Structures Reveal Undecad Coiled Coils and LOX1 Binding Regions Competed by Meningococcus B Vaccine-Elicited Human Antibodies.

mBio 2018 10 16;9(5). Epub 2018 Oct 16.

GSK, Siena, Italy

serogroup B (MenB) is a major cause of sepsis and invasive meningococcal disease. A multicomponent vaccine, 4CMenB, is approved for protection against MenB. Neisserial adhesin A (NadA) is one of the main vaccine antigens, acts in host cell adhesion, and may influence colonization and invasion. Six major genetic variants of NadA exist and can be classified into immunologically distinct groups I and II. Knowledge of the crystal structure of the 4CMenB vaccine component NadA3 (group I) would improve understanding of its immunogenicity, folding, and functional properties and might aid antigen design. Here, X-ray crystallography, biochemical, and cellular studies were used to deeply characterize NadA3. The NadA3 crystal structure is reported; it revealed two unexpected regions of undecad coiled-coil motifs and other conformational differences from NadA5 (group II) not predicted by previous analyses. Structure-guided engineering was performed to increase NadA3 thermostability, and a second crystal structure confirmed the improved packing. Functional NadA3 residues mediating interactions with human receptor LOX-1 were identified. Also, for two protective vaccine-elicited human monoclonal antibodies (5D11, 12H11), we mapped key NadA3 epitopes. These vaccine-elicited human MAbs competed binding of NadA3 to LOX-1, suggesting their potential to inhibit host-pathogen colonizing interactions. The data presented provide a significant advance in the understanding of the structure, immunogenicity and function of NadA, one of the main antigens of the multicomponent meningococcus B vaccine. The bacterial microbe serogroup B (MenB) is a major cause of devastating meningococcal disease. An approved multicomponent vaccine, 4CMenB, protects against MenB. Neisserial adhesin A (NadA) is a key vaccine antigen and acts in host cell-pathogen interactions. We investigated the 4CMenB vaccine component NadA3 in order to improve the understanding of its immunogenicity, structure, and function and to aid antigen design. We report crystal structures of NadA3, revealing unexpected structural motifs, and other conformational differences from the NadA5 orthologue studied previously. We performed structure-based antigen design to engineer increased NadA3 thermostability. Functional NadA3 residues mediating interactions with the human receptor LOX-1 and vaccine-elicited human antibodies were identified. These antibodies competed binding of NadA3 to LOX-1, suggesting their potential to inhibit host-pathogen colonizing interactions. Our data provide a significant advance in the overall understanding of the 4CMenB vaccine antigen NadA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01914-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6191539PMC
October 2018

Structures of NHBA elucidate a broadly conserved epitope identified by a vaccine induced antibody.

PLoS One 2018 22;13(8):e0201922. Epub 2018 Aug 22.

GSK, Rockville, MD, United States of America.

Neisserial heparin binding antigen (NHBA) is one of three main recombinant protein antigens in 4CMenB, a vaccine for the prevention of invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B. NHBA is a surface-exposed lipoprotein composed of a predicted disordered N-terminal region, an arginine-rich region that binds heparin, and a C-terminal domain that folds as an anti-parallel β-barrel and that upon release after cleavage by human proteases alters endothelial permeability. NHBA induces bactericidal antibodies in humans, and NHBA-specific antibodies elicited by the 4CMenB vaccine contribute to serum bactericidal activity, the correlate of protection. To better understand the structural bases of the human antibody response to 4CMenB vaccination and to inform antigen design, we used X-ray crystallography to elucidate the structures of two C-terminal fragments of NHBA, either alone or in complex with the Fab derived from the vaccine-elicited human monoclonal antibody 5H2, and the structure of the unbound Fab 5H2. The structures reveal details on the interaction between an N-terminal β-hairpin fragment and the β-barrel, and explain how NHBA is capable of generating cross-reactive antibodies through an extensive conserved conformational epitope that covers the entire C-terminal face of the β-barrel. By providing new structural information on a vaccine antigen and on the human immune response to vaccination, these results deepen our molecular understanding of 4CMenB, and might also aid future vaccine design projects.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0201922PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6104945PMC
January 2019

From recognition to execution-the HCMV Pentamer from receptor binding to fusion triggering.

Curr Opin Virol 2018 08 1;31:43-51. Epub 2018 Jun 1.

Moderna, 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Electronic address:

The β-herpesvirus human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the leading viral cause of neonatal developmental disabilities. In HCMV, the conserved herpesvirus glycoprotein B (gB) mediates membrane fusion between the viral and host cell membranes, whereas the trimeric gH/gL/gO or the pentameric gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL31A complexes (Pentamer) bind to cell-specific receptors and provide the triggering signal to gB. Recent structural and functional studies have provided new insights into Pentamer structure, conformational flexibility, location of epitopes for neutralizing antibodies and potential binding sites for cell surface receptors. Together, these data suggest a model where receptor binding triggers a conformational change in Pentamer, allowing it to interact with gB and initiate the membrane fusion process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.coviro.2018.05.004DOI Listing
August 2018

Structural basis for potent antibody-mediated neutralization of human cytomegalovirus.

Sci Immunol 2017 Jun;2(12)

GSK Vaccines, 14200 Shady Grove Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the leading viral cause of birth defects and organ transplant rejection. The HCMV gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL131A complex (Pentamer) is the main target of humoral responses and thus a key vaccine candidate. We report two structures of Pentamer bound to human neutralizing antibodies, 8I21 and 9I6, at 3.0 and 5.9 Å resolution, respectively. The HCMV gH/gL architecture is similar to that of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) except for amino-terminal extensions on both subunits. The extension of gL forms a subdomain composed of a three-helix bundle and a β hairpin that acts as a docking site for UL128/UL130/UL131A. Structural analysis reveals that Pentamer is a flexible molecule, and suggests sites for engineering stabilizing mutations. We also identify immunogenic surfaces important for cellular interactions by epitope mapping and functional assays. These results can guide the development of effective vaccines and immunotherapeutics against HCMV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciimmunol.aan1457DOI Listing
June 2017

Crystal structures of human Fabs targeting the Bexsero meningococcal vaccine antigen NHBA.

Acta Crystallogr F Struct Biol Commun 2017 06 11;73(Pt 6):305-314. Epub 2017 May 11.

GSK Vaccines, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Neisserial heparin-binding antigen (NHBA) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein from Neisseria meningitidis and is a component of the meningococcus B vaccine Bexsero. As part of a study to characterize the three-dimensional structure of NHBA and the molecular basis of the human immune response to Bexsero, the crystal structures of two fragment antigen-binding domains (Fabs) isolated from human monoclonal antibodies targeting NHBA were determined. Through a high-resolution analysis of the organization and the amino-acid composition of the CDRs, these structures provide broad insights into the NHBA epitopes recognized by the human immune system. As expected, these Fabs also show remarkable structural conservation, as shown by a structural comparison of 15 structures of apo Fab 10C3 which were obtained from crystals grown in different crystallization conditions and were solved while searching for a complex with a bound NHBA fragment or epitope peptide. This study also provides indirect evidence for the intrinsically disordered nature of two N-terminal regions of NHBA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1107/S2053230X17006021DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5458386PMC
June 2017

Structure of a protective epitope of group B type III capsular polysaccharide.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 05 24;114(19):5017-5022. Epub 2017 Apr 24.

GSK Vaccines, 53100 Siena, Italy

Despite substantial progress in the prevention of group B (GBS) disease with the introduction of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, this pathogen remains a leading cause of neonatal infection. Capsular polysaccharide conjugate vaccines have been tested in phase I/II clinical studies, showing promise for further development. Mapping of epitopes recognized by protective antibodies is crucial for understanding the mechanism of action of vaccines and for enabling antigen design. In this study, we report the structure of the epitope recognized by a monoclonal antibody with opsonophagocytic activity and representative of the protective response against type III GBS polysaccharide. The structure and the atomic-level interactions were determined by saturation transfer difference (STD)-NMR and X-ray crystallography using oligosaccharides obtained by synthetic and depolymerization procedures. The GBS PSIII epitope is made by six sugars. Four of them derive from two adjacent repeating units of the PSIII backbone and two of them from the branched galactose-sialic acid disaccharide contained in this sequence. The sialic acid residue establishes direct binding interactions with the functional antibody. The crystal structure provides insight into the molecular basis of antibody-carbohydrate interactions and confirms that the conformational epitope is not required for antigen recognition. Understanding the structural basis of immune recognition of capsular polysaccharide epitopes can aid in the design of novel glycoconjugate vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1701885114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5441712PMC
May 2017

Neisseria meningitidis factor H-binding protein bound to monoclonal antibody JAR5: implications for antibody synergy.

Biochem J 2016 Dec 26;473(24):4699-4713. Epub 2016 Oct 26.

GSK Vaccines srl, Via Fiorentina 1, Siena 53100, Italy.

Factor H-binding protein (fHbp) is an important antigen of Neisseria meningitidis that is capable of eliciting a robust protective immune response in humans. Previous studies on the interactions of fHbp with antibodies revealed that some anti-fHbp monoclonal antibodies that are unable to trigger complement-mediated bacterial killing in vitro are highly co-operative and become bactericidal if used in combination. Several factors have been shown to influence such co-operativity, including IgG subclass and antigen density. To investigate the structural basis of the anti-fHbp antibody synergy, we determined the crystal structure of the complex between fHbp and the Fab (fragment antigen-binding) fragment of JAR5, a specific anti-fHbp murine monoclonal antibody known to be highly co-operative with other monoclonal antibodies. We show that JAR5 is highly synergic with monoclonal antibody (mAb) 12C1, whose structure in complex with fHbp has been previously solved. Structural analyses of the epitopes recognized by JAR5 and 12C1, and computational modeling of full-length IgG mAbs of JAR5 and 12C1 bound to the same fHbp molecule, provide insights into the spatial orientation of Fc (fragment crystallizable) regions and into the possible implications for the susceptibility of meningococci to complement-mediated killing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20160806DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398935PMC
December 2016

Molecular Basis of Ligand-Dependent Regulation of NadR, the Transcriptional Repressor of Meningococcal Virulence Factor NadA.

PLoS Pathog 2016 04 22;12(4):e1005557. Epub 2016 Apr 22.

GSK Vaccines Srl, Siena, Italy.

Neisseria adhesin A (NadA) is present on the meningococcal surface and contributes to adhesion to and invasion of human cells. NadA is also one of three recombinant antigens in the recently-approved Bexsero vaccine, which protects against serogroup B meningococcus. The amount of NadA on the bacterial surface is of direct relevance in the constant battle of host-pathogen interactions: it influences the ability of the pathogen to engage human cell surface-exposed receptors and, conversely, the bacterial susceptibility to the antibody-mediated immune response. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms which regulate nadA expression levels, which are predominantly controlled by the transcriptional regulator NadR (Neisseria adhesin A Regulator) both in vitro and in vivo. NadR binds the nadA promoter and represses gene transcription. In the presence of 4-hydroxyphenylacetate (4-HPA), a catabolite present in human saliva both under physiological conditions and during bacterial infection, the binding of NadR to the nadA promoter is attenuated and nadA expression is induced. NadR also mediates ligand-dependent regulation of many other meningococcal genes, for example the highly-conserved multiple adhesin family (maf) genes, which encode proteins emerging with important roles in host-pathogen interactions, immune evasion and niche adaptation. To gain insights into the regulation of NadR mediated by 4-HPA, we combined structural, biochemical, and mutagenesis studies. In particular, two new crystal structures of ligand-free and ligand-bound NadR revealed (i) the molecular basis of 'conformational selection' by which a single molecule of 4-HPA binds and stabilizes dimeric NadR in a conformation unsuitable for DNA-binding, (ii) molecular explanations for the binding specificities of different hydroxyphenylacetate ligands, including 3Cl,4-HPA which is produced during inflammation, (iii) the presence of a leucine residue essential for dimerization and conserved in many MarR family proteins, and (iv) four residues (His7, Ser9, Asn11 and Phe25), which are involved in binding 4-HPA, and were confirmed in vitro to have key roles in the regulatory mechanism in bacteria. Overall, this study deepens our molecular understanding of the sophisticated regulatory mechanisms of the expression of nadA and other genes governed by NadR, dependent on interactions with niche-specific signal molecules that may play important roles during meningococcal pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005557DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4841544PMC
April 2016

Crystal structure of FhuD at 1.6 Å resolution: a ferrichrome-binding protein from the animal and human pathogen Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.

Acta Crystallogr F Struct Biol Commun 2016 Mar 19;72(Pt 3):214-9. Epub 2016 Feb 19.

Research Centre, GSK Vaccines Srl, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is a leading cause of disease in dogs, and zoonosis causes human infections. Methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius strains are emerging, resembling the global health threat of S. aureus. Therefore, it is increasingly important to characterize potential targets for intervention against S. pseudintermedius. Here, FhuD, an S. pseudintermedius surface lipoprotein implicated in iron uptake, was characterized. It was found that FhuD bound ferrichrome in an iron-dependent manner, which increased the thermostability of FhuD by >15 °C. The crystal structure of ferrichrome-free FhuD was determined via molecular replacement at 1.6 Å resolution. FhuD exhibits the class III solute-binding protein (SBP) fold, with a ligand-binding cavity between the N- and C-terminal lobes, which is here occupied by a PEG molecule. The two lobes of FhuD were oriented in a closed conformation. These results provide the first detailed structural characterization of FhuD, a potential therapeutic target of S. pseudintermedius.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1107/S2053230X16002272DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4774880PMC
March 2016

Self-assembling protein nanoparticles in the design of vaccines.

Comput Struct Biotechnol J 2016 26;14:58-68. Epub 2015 Nov 26.

GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines S.r.l., Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

For over 100 years, vaccines have been one of the most effective medical interventions for reducing infectious disease, and are estimated to save millions of lives globally each year. Nevertheless, many diseases are not yet preventable by vaccination. This large unmet medical need demands further research and the development of novel vaccines with high efficacy and safety. Compared to the 19th and early 20th century vaccines that were made of killed, inactivated, or live-attenuated pathogens, modern vaccines containing isolated, highly purified antigenic protein subunits are safer but tend to induce lower levels of protective immunity. One strategy to overcome the latter is to design antigen nanoparticles: assemblies of polypeptides that present multiple copies of subunit antigens in well-ordered arrays with defined orientations that can potentially mimic the repetitiveness, geometry, size, and shape of the natural host-pathogen surface interactions. Such nanoparticles offer a collective strength of multiple binding sites (avidity) and can provide improved antigen stability and immunogenicity. Several exciting advances have emerged lately, including preclinical evidence that this strategy may be applicable for the development of innovative new vaccines, for example, protecting against influenza, human immunodeficiency virus, and respiratory syncytial virus. Here, we provide a concise review of a critical selection of data that demonstrate the potential of this field. In addition, we highlight how the use of self-assembling protein nanoparticles can be effectively combined with the emerging discipline of structural vaccinology for maximum impact in the rational design of vaccine antigens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csbj.2015.11.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706605PMC
February 2016

Structural and Computational Biology in the Design of Immunogenic Vaccine Antigens.

J Immunol Res 2015 7;2015:156241. Epub 2015 Oct 7.

Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics S.r.l. (a GSK Company), Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Vaccination is historically one of the most important medical interventions for the prevention of infectious disease. Previously, vaccines were typically made of rather crude mixtures of inactivated or attenuated causative agents. However, over the last 10-20 years, several important technological and computational advances have enabled major progress in the discovery and design of potently immunogenic recombinant protein vaccine antigens. Here we discuss three key breakthrough approaches that have potentiated structural and computational vaccine design. Firstly, genomic sciences gave birth to the field of reverse vaccinology, which has enabled the rapid computational identification of potential vaccine antigens. Secondly, major advances in structural biology, experimental epitope mapping, and computational epitope prediction have yielded molecular insights into the immunogenic determinants defining protective antigens, enabling their rational optimization. Thirdly, and most recently, computational approaches have been used to convert this wealth of structural and immunological information into the design of improved vaccine antigens. This review aims to illustrate the growing power of combining sequencing, structural and computational approaches, and we discuss how this may drive the design of novel immunogens suitable for future vaccines urgently needed to increase the global prevention of infectious disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/156241DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4615220PMC
August 2016

Noncanonical sortase-mediated assembly of pilus type 2b in group B Streptococcus.

FASEB J 2015 Nov 22;29(11):4629-40. Epub 2015 Jul 22.

*Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, GlaxoSmithKline, Siena, Italy; and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, Department of Biotechnology, University of Verona, Verona, Italy

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) expresses 3 structurally distinct pilus types (1, 2a, and 2b) identified as important virulence factors and vaccine targets. These pili are heterotrimeric polymers, covalently assembled on the cell wall by sortase (Srt) enzymes. We investigated the pilus-2b biogenesis mechanism by using a multidisciplinary approach integrating genetic, biochemical, and structural studies to dissect the role of the 2 pilus-2b-associated Srts. We show that only 1 sortase (SrtC1-2b) is responsible for pilus protein polymerization, whereas the second one (Srt2-2b) does not act as a pilin polymerase, but similarly to the housekeeping class A Srt (SrtA), it is involved in cell-wall pilus anchoring by targeting the minor ancillary subunit. Based on its function and sequence features, Srt2-2b does not belong to class C Srts (SrtCs), nor is it a canonical member of any other known family of Srts. We also report the crystal structure of SrtC1-2b at 1.9 Å resolution. The overall fold resembles the typical structure of SrtCs except for the N-terminal lid region that appears in an open conformation displaced from the active site. Our findings reveal that GBS pilus type 2b biogenesis differs significantly from the current model of pilus assembly in gram-positive pathogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.15-272500DOI Listing
November 2015

Protein Crystallography in Vaccine Research and Development.

Int J Mol Sci 2015 Jun 9;16(6):13106-40. Epub 2015 Jun 9.

Protein Biochemistry Department, Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics s.r.l. (a GSK Company), Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

The use of protein X-ray crystallography for structure-based design of small-molecule drugs is well-documented and includes several notable success stories. However, it is less well-known that structural biology has emerged as a major tool for the design of novel vaccine antigens. Here, we review the important contributions that protein crystallography has made so far to vaccine research and development. We discuss several examples of the crystallographic characterization of vaccine antigen structures, alone or in complexes with ligands or receptors. We cover the critical role of high-resolution epitope mapping by reviewing structures of complexes between antigens and their cognate neutralizing, or protective, antibody fragments. Most importantly, we provide recent examples where structural insights obtained via protein crystallography have been used to design novel optimized vaccine antigens. This review aims to illustrate the value of protein crystallography in the emerging discipline of structural vaccinology and its impact on the rational design of vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms160613106DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490488PMC
June 2015

Structure and assembly of group B streptococcus pilus 2b backbone protein.

PLoS One 2015 5;10(5):e0125875. Epub 2015 May 5.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a major cause of invasive disease in infants. Like other Gram-positive bacteria, GBS uses a sortase C-catalyzed transpeptidation mechanism to generate cell surface pili from backbone and ancillary pilin precursor substrates. The three pilus types identified in GBS contain structural subunits that are highly immunogenic and are promising candidates for the development of a broadly-protective vaccine. Here we report the X-ray crystal structure of the backbone protein of pilus 2b (BP-2b) at 1.06Å resolution. The structure reveals a classical IgG-like fold typical of the pilin subunits of other Gram-positive bacteria. The crystallized portion of the protein (residues 185-468) encompasses domains D2 and D3 that together confer high stability to the protein due to the presence of an internal isopeptide bond within each domain. The D2+D3 region, lacking the N-terminal D1 domain, was as potent as the entire protein in conferring protection against GBS challenge in a well-established mouse model. By site-directed mutagenesis and complementation studies in GBS knock-out strains we identified the residues and motives essential for assembly of the BP-2b monomers into high-molecular weight complexes, thus providing new insights into pilus 2b polymerization.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0125875PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420484PMC
February 2016

Structure of the meningococcal vaccine antigen NadA and epitope mapping of a bactericidal antibody.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Dec 17;111(48):17128-33. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Novartis Vaccines, 53100 Siena, Italy; and.

Serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB) is a major cause of severe sepsis and invasive meningococcal disease, which is associated with 5-15% mortality and devastating long-term sequelae. Neisserial adhesin A (NadA), a trimeric autotransporter adhesin (TAA) that acts in adhesion to and invasion of host epithelial cells, is one of the three antigens discovered by genome mining that are part of the MenB vaccine that recently was approved by the European Medicines Agency. Here we present the crystal structure of NadA variant 5 at 2 Å resolution and transmission electron microscopy data for NadA variant 3 that is present in the vaccine. The two variants show similar overall topology with a novel TAA fold predominantly composed of trimeric coiled-coils with three protruding wing-like structures that create an unusual N-terminal head domain. Detailed mapping of the binding site of a bactericidal antibody by hydrogen/deuterium exchange MS shows that a protective conformational epitope is located in the head of NadA. These results provide information that is important for elucidating the biological function and vaccine efficacy of NadA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1419686111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4260552PMC
December 2014

Apo, Zn2+-bound and Mn2+-bound structures reveal ligand-binding properties of SitA from the pathogen Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.

Biosci Rep 2014 Nov 24;34(6):e00154. Epub 2014 Nov 24.

*Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics srl, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

The Gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is a leading cause of canine bacterial pyoderma, resulting in worldwide morbidity in dogs. S. pseudintermedius also causes life-threatening human infections. Furthermore, methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius is emerging, resembling the human health threat of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Therefore it is increasingly important to characterize targets for intervention strategies to counteract S. pseudintermedius infections. Here we used biophysical methods, mutagenesis, and X-ray crystallography, to define the ligand-binding properties and structure of SitA, an S. pseudintermedius surface lipoprotein. SitA was strongly and specifically stabilized by Mn2+ and Zn2+ ions. Crystal structures of SitA complexed with Mn2+ and Zn2+ revealed a canonical class III solute-binding protein with the metal cation bound in a cavity between N- and C-terminal lobes. Unexpectedly, one crystal contained both apo- and holo-forms of SitA, revealing a large side-chain reorientation of His64, and associated structural differences accompanying ligand binding. Such conformational changes may regulate fruitful engagement of the cognate ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transporter system (SitBC) required for metal uptake. These results provide the first detailed characterization and mechanistic insights for a potential therapeutic target of the major canine pathogen S. pseudintermedius, and also shed light on homologous structures in related staphylococcal pathogens afflicting humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BSR20140088DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4242081PMC
November 2014

Finding epitopes with computers.

Chem Biol 2013 Oct;20(10):1205-6

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, 53100 Siena, Italy.

The goal of structural vaccinology is to enable the design and engineering of improved antigens. In a recent issue of Chemistry & Biology, Gourlay and colleagues provided evidence that structure-based computational methods allow prediction of B cell epitopes, a crucial step for antigen selection and optimization in vaccine development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.10.002DOI Listing
October 2013

Cloning, expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of SpyCEP, a candidate antigen for a vaccine against Streptococcus pyogenes.

Acta Crystallogr Sect F Struct Biol Cryst Commun 2013 Oct 28;69(Pt 10):1103-6. Epub 2013 Sep 28.

Research Centre, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A streptococcus; GAS) is an important human pathogen against which an effective vaccine does not yet exist. The S. pyogenes protein SpyCEP (S. pyogenes cell-envelope proteinase) is a surface-exposed subtilisin-like serine protease of 1647 amino acids. In addition to its auto-protease activity, SpyCEP is capable of cleaving interleukin 8 and related chemokines, contributing to GAS immune-evasion strategies. SpyCEP is immunogenic and confers protection in animal models of GAS infections. In order to structurally characterize this promising vaccine candidate, several SpyCEP protein-expression constructs were designed, cloned, produced in Escherichia coli, purified by affinity chromatography and subjected to crystallization trials. Crystals of a selenomethionyl form of a near-full-length SpyCEP ectodomain were obtained. The crystals diffracted X-rays to 3.3 Å resolution and belonged to space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a=139.2, b=120.4, c=104.3 Å, β=111°.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1107/S1744309113024871DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792666PMC
October 2013

Mining the bacterial unknown proteome: identification and characterization of a novel family of highly conserved protective antigens in Staphylococcus aureus.

Biochem J 2013 Nov;455(3):273-84

*Research Department, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, 53100 Siena, Italy.

In the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, there exists an enormous diversity of proteins containing DUFs (domains of unknown function). In the present study, we characterized the family of conserved staphylococcal antigens (Csa) classified as DUF576 and taxonomically restricted to Staphylococci. The 18 Csa paralogues in S. aureus Newman are highly similar at the sequence level, yet were found to be expressed in multiple cellular locations. Extracellular Csa1A was shown to be post-translationally processed and released. Molecular interaction studies revealed that Csa1A interacts with other Csa paralogues, suggesting that these proteins are involved in the same cellular process. The structures of Csa1A and Csa1B were determined by X-ray crystallography, unveiling a peculiar structure with limited structural similarity to other known proteins. Our results provide the first detailed biological characterization of this family and confirm the uniqueness of this family also at the structural level. We also provide evidence that Csa family members elicit protective immunity in in vivo animal models of staphylococcal infections, indicating a possible important role for these proteins in S. aureus biology and pathogenesis. These findings identify the Csa family as new potential vaccine candidates, and underline the importance of mining the bacterial unknown proteome to identify new targets for preventive vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BJ20130540DOI Listing
November 2013

Defining a protective epitope on factor H binding protein, a key meningococcal virulence factor and vaccine antigen.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Feb 8;110(9):3304-9. Epub 2013 Feb 8.

Research Center, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics srl, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Mapping of epitopes recognized by functional monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is essential for understanding the nature of immune responses and designing improved vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. In recent years, identification of B-cell epitopes targeted by neutralizing antibodies has facilitated the design of peptide-based vaccines against highly variable pathogens like HIV, respiratory syncytial virus, and Helicobacter pylori; however, none of these products has yet progressed into clinical stages. Linear epitopes identified by conventional mapping techniques only partially reflect the immunogenic properties of the epitope in its natural conformation, thus limiting the success of this approach. To investigate antigen-antibody interactions and assess the potential of the most common epitope mapping techniques, we generated a series of mAbs against factor H binding protein (fHbp), a key virulence factor and vaccine antigen of Neisseria meningitidis. The interaction of fHbp with the bactericidal mAb 12C1 was studied by various epitope mapping methods. Although a 12-residue epitope in the C terminus of fHbp was identified by both Peptide Scanning and Phage Display Library screening, other approaches, such as hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (MS) and X-ray crystallography, showed that mAb 12C1 occupies an area of ∼1,000 Å(2) on fHbp, including >20 fHbp residues distributed on both N- and C-terminal domains. Collectively, these data show that linear epitope mapping techniques provide useful but incomplete descriptions of B-cell epitopes, indicating that increased efforts to fully characterize antigen-antibody interfaces are required to understand and design effective immunogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222845110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587270PMC
February 2013

Structural and functional characterization of the Staphylococcus aureus virulence factor and vaccine candidate FhuD2.

Biochem J 2013 Feb;449(3):683-93

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics srl, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen causing globally significant morbidity and mortality. The development of antibiotic resistance in S. aureus highlights the need for a preventive vaccine. In the present paper we explore the structure and function of FhuD2 (ferric-hydroxamate uptake D2), a staphylococcal surface lipoprotein mediating iron uptake during invasive infection, recently described as a promising vaccine candidate. Differential scanning fluorimetry and calorimetry studies revealed that FhuD2 is stabilized by hydroxamate siderophores. The FhuD2-ferrichrome interaction was of nanomolar affinity in surface plasmon resonance experiments and fully iron(III)-dependent. We determined the X-ray crystallographic structure of ligand-bound FhuD2 at 1.9 Å (1 Å=0.1 nm) resolution, revealing the bilobate fold of class III SBPs (solute-binding proteins). The ligand, ferrichrome, occupies a cleft between the FhuD2 N- and C-terminal lobes. Many FhuD2-siderophore interactions enable the specific recognition of ferrichrome. Biochemical data suggest that FhuD2 does not undergo significant conformational changes upon siderophore binding, supporting the hypothesis that the ligand-bound complex is essential for receptor engagement and uptake. Finally, immunizations with FhuD2 alone or FhuD2 formulated with hydroxamate siderophores were equally protective in a murine staphylococcal infection model, confirming the suitability and efficacy of apo-FhuD2 as a protective antigen, and suggesting that other class III SBPs might also be exploited as vaccine candidates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BJ20121426DOI Listing
February 2013

The structure of Clostridium difficile toxin A glucosyltransferase domain bound to Mn2+ and UDP provides insights into glucosyltransferase activity and product release.

FEBS J 2012 Sep 23;279(17):3085-97. Epub 2012 Jul 23.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Clostridiumdifficile toxin A (TcdA) is a member of the large clostridial toxin family, and is responsible, together with C. difficile toxin B (TcdB), for many clinical symptoms d ring human infections. Like other large clostridial toxins, TcdA catalyzes the glucosylation of GTPases, and is able to inactivate small GTPases within the host cell. Here, we report the crystal structures of the TcdA glucosyltransferase domain (TcdA-GT) in the apo form and in the presence of Mn(2+) and hydrolyzed UDP-glucose. These structures, together with the recently reported crystal structure of TcdA-GT bound to UDP-glucose, provide a detailed understanding of the conformational changes of TcdA that occur during the catalytic cycle. Indeed, we present a new intermediate conformation of a so-called 'lid' loop (residues 510-522 in TcdA), concomitant with the absence of glucose in the catalytic domain. The recombinant TcdA was expressed in Brevibacillus in the inactive apo form. High thermal stability of wild-type TcdA was observed only after the addition of both Mn(2+) and UDP-glucose. The glucosylhydrolase activity, which is readily restored after reconstitution with both these cofactors, was similar to that reported for TcdB. Interestingly, we found that ammonium, like K(+) , is able to activate the UDP-glucose hydrolase activities of TcdA. Consequently, the presence of ammonium in the crystallization buffer enabled us to obtain the first crystal structure of TcdA-GT bound to the hydrolysis product UDP.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2012.08688.xDOI Listing
September 2012

Structural basis for lack of toxicity of the diphtheria toxin mutant CRM197.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Apr 19;109(14):5229-34. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, 10675 John Jay Hopkins Drive, San Diego, CA 92121, USA.

CRM197 is an enzymatically inactive and nontoxic form of diphtheria toxin that contains a single amino acid substitution (G52E). Being naturally nontoxic, CRM197 is an ideal carrier protein for conjugate vaccines against encapsulated bacteria and is currently used to vaccinate children globally against Haemophilus influenzae, pneumococcus, and meningococcus. To understand the molecular basis for lack of toxicity in CRM197, we determined the crystal structures of the full-length nucleotide-free CRM197 and of CRM197 in complex with the NAD hydrolysis product nicotinamide (NCA), both at 2.0-Å resolution. The structures show for the first time that the overall fold of CRM197 and DT are nearly identical and that the striking functional difference between the two proteins can be explained by a flexible active-site loop that covers the NAD binding pocket. We present the molecular basis for the increased flexibility of the active-site loop in CRM197 as unveiled by molecular dynamics simulations. These structural insights, combined with surface plasmon resonance, NAD hydrolysis, and differential scanning fluorimetry data, contribute to a comprehensive characterization of the vaccine carrier protein, CRM197.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1201964109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325714PMC
April 2012

Rational design of a meningococcal antigen inducing broad protective immunity.

Sci Transl Med 2011 Jul;3(91):91ra62

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics S.r.l., Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

The sequence variability of protective antigens is a major challenge to the development of vaccines. For Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterial pathogen that causes meningitis, the amino acid sequence of the protective antigen factor H binding protein (fHBP) has more than 300 variations. These sequence differences can be classified into three distinct groups of antigenic variants that do not induce cross-protective immunity. Our goal was to generate a single antigen that would induce immunity against all known sequence variants of N. meningitidis. To achieve this, we rationally designed, expressed, and purified 54 different mutants of fHBP and tested them in mice for the induction of protective immunity. We identified and determined the crystal structure of a lead chimeric antigen that was able to induce high levels of cross-protective antibodies in mice against all variant strains tested. The new fHBP antigen had a conserved backbone that carried an engineered surface containing specificities for all three variant groups. We demonstrate that the structure-based design of multiple immunodominant antigenic surfaces on a single protein scaffold is possible and represents an effective way to create broadly protective vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3002234DOI Listing
July 2011

Structure analysis and site-directed mutagenesis of defined key residues and motives for pilus-related sortase C1 in group B Streptococcus.

FASEB J 2011 Jun 25;25(6):1874-86. Epub 2011 Feb 25.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

In group B Streptococcus (GBS), 3 structurally distinct types of pili have been discovered as potential virulence factors and vaccine candidates. The pilus-forming proteins are assembled into high-molecular-weight polymers via a transpeptidation mechanism mediated by specific class C sortases. Using a multidisciplinary approach including bioinformatics, structural and biochemical studies, and in vivo mutagenesis, we performed a broad characterization of GBS sortase C1 of pilus island 2a. The high-resolution X-ray structure of the enzyme revealed that the active site, into the β-barrel core of the enzyme, is made of the catalytic triad His157-Cys219-Arg228 and covered by a loop, known as the "lid." We show that the catalytic triad and the predicted N- and C-terminal transmembrane regions are required for the enzyme activity. Interestingly, by in vivo complementation mutagenesis studies, we found that the deletion of the entire lid loop or mutations in specific lid key residues had no effect on catalytic activity of the enzyme. In addition, kinetic characterizations of recombinant enzymes indicate that the lid mutants can still recognize and cleave the substrate-mimicking peptide at least as well as the wild-type protein.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.10-174797DOI Listing
June 2011

Supramolecular organization of the repetitive backbone unit of the Streptococcus pneumoniae pilus.

PLoS One 2010 Jun 15;5(6):e10919. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, San Diego, California, United States of America.

Streptococcus pneumoniae, like many other Gram-positive bacteria, assembles long filamentous pili on their surface through which they adhere to host cells. Pneumococcal pili are formed by a backbone, consisting of the repetition of the major component RrgB, and two accessory proteins (RrgA and RrgC). Here we reconstruct by transmission electron microscopy and single particle image reconstruction method the three dimensional arrangement of two neighbouring RrgB molecules, which represent the minimal repetitive structural domain of the native pilus. The crystal structure of the D2-D4 domains of RrgB was solved at 1.6 A resolution. Rigid-body fitting of the X-ray coordinates into the electron density map enabled us to define the arrangement of the backbone subunits into the S. pneumoniae native pilus. The quantitative fitting provide evidence that the pneumococcal pilus consists uniquely of RrgB monomers assembled in a head-to-tail organization. The presence of short intra-subunit linker regions connecting neighbouring domains provides the molecular basis for the intrinsic pilus flexibility.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0010919PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886109PMC
June 2010

Designed inhibitors of insulin-degrading enzyme regulate the catabolism and activity of insulin.

PLoS One 2010 May 7;5(5):e10504. Epub 2010 May 7.

Department of Neuroscience, Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America.

Background: Insulin is a vital peptide hormone that is a central regulator of glucose homeostasis, and impairments in insulin signaling cause diabetes mellitus. In principle, it should be possible to enhance the activity of insulin by inhibiting its catabolism, which is mediated primarily by insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), a structurally and evolutionarily distinctive zinc-metalloprotease. Despite interest in pharmacological inhibition of IDE as an attractive anti-diabetic approach dating to the 1950s, potent and selective inhibitors of IDE have not yet emerged.

Methodology/principal Findings: We used a rational design approach based on analysis of combinatorial peptide mixtures and focused compound libraries to develop novel peptide hydroxamic acid inhibitors of IDE. The resulting compounds are approximately 10(6) times more potent than existing inhibitors, non-toxic, and surprisingly selective for IDE vis-à-vis conventional zinc-metalloproteases. Crystallographic analysis of an IDE-inhibitor complex reveals a novel mode of inhibition based on stabilization of IDE's "closed," inactive conformation. We show further that pharmacological inhibition of IDE potentiates insulin signaling by a mechanism involving reduced catabolism of internalized insulin.

Conclusions/significance: The inhibitors we describe are the first to potently and selectively inhibit IDE or indeed any member of this atypical zinc-metalloprotease superfamily. The distinctive structure of IDE's active site, and the mode of action of our inhibitors, suggests that it may be possible to develop inhibitors that cross-react minimally with conventional zinc-metalloproteases. Significantly, our results reveal that insulin signaling is normally regulated by IDE activity not only extracellularly but also within cells, supporting the longstanding view that IDE inhibitors could hold therapeutic value for the treatment of diabetes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0010504PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866327PMC
May 2010

Molecular basis of catalytic chamber-assisted unfolding and cleavage of human insulin by human insulin-degrading enzyme.

J Biol Chem 2009 May 25;284(21):14177-88. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Ben-May Department for Cancer Research, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.

Insulin is a hormone vital for glucose homeostasis, and insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) plays a key role in its clearance. IDE exhibits a remarkable specificity to degrade insulin without breaking the disulfide bonds that hold the insulin A and B chains together. Using Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometry to obtain high mass accuracy, and electron capture dissociation (ECD) to selectively break the disulfide bonds in gas phase fragmentation, we determined the cleavage sites and composition of human insulin fragments generated by human IDE. Our time-dependent analysis of IDE-digested insulin fragments reveals that IDE is highly processive in its initial cleavage at the middle of both the insulin A and B chains. This ensures that IDE effectively splits insulin into inactive N- and C-terminal halves without breaking the disulfide bonds. To understand the molecular basis of the recognition and unfolding of insulin by IDE, we determined a 2.6-A resolution insulin-bound IDE structure. Our structure reveals that IDE forms an enclosed catalytic chamber that completely engulfs and intimately interacts with a partially unfolded insulin molecule. This structure also highlights how the unique size, shape, charge distribution, and exosite of the IDE catalytic chamber contribute to its high affinity ( approximately 100 nm) for insulin. In addition, this structure shows how IDE utilizes the interaction of its exosite with the N terminus of the insulin A chain as well as other properties of the catalytic chamber to guide the unfolding of insulin and allowing for the processive cleavages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M900068200DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682866PMC
May 2009