Publications by authors named "Rainer Merkl"

85 Publications

Evidence for the preferential reuse of sub-domain motifs in primordial protein folds.

Proteins 2021 May 6. Epub 2021 May 6.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

A comparison of protein backbones makes clear that not more than approximately 1400 different folds exist, each specifying the three-dimensional topology of a protein domain. Large proteins are composed of specific domain combinations and many domains can accommodate different functions. These findings confirm that the reuse of domains is key for the evolution of multi-domain proteins. If reuse was also the driving force for domain evolution, ancestral fragments of sub-domain size exist that are shared between domains possessing significantly different topologies. For the fully automated detection of putatively ancestral motifs, we developed the algorithm Fragstatt that compares proteins pairwise to identify fragments, that is, instantiations of the same motif. To reach maximal sensitivity, Fragstatt compares sequences by means of cascaded alignments of profile Hidden Markov Models. If the fragment sequences are sufficiently similar, the program determines and scores the structural concordance of the fragments. By analyzing a comprehensive set of proteins from the CATH database, Fragstatt identified 12 532 partially overlapping and structurally similar motifs that clustered to 134 unique motifs. The dissemination of these motifs is limited: We found only two domain topologies that contain two different motifs and generally, these motifs occur in not more than 18% of the CATH topologies. Interestingly, motifs are enriched in topologies that are considered ancestral. Thus, our findings suggest that the reuse of sub-domain sized fragments was relevant in early phases of protein evolution and became less important later on. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/prot.26089DOI Listing
May 2021

Rosetta design with co-evolutionary information retains protein function.

PLoS Comput Biol 2021 01 19;17(1):e1008568. Epub 2021 Jan 19.

Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.

Computational protein design has the ambitious goal of crafting novel proteins that address challenges in biology and medicine. To overcome these challenges, the computational protein modeling suite Rosetta has been tailored to address various protein design tasks. Recently, statistical methods have been developed that identify correlated mutations between residues in a multiple sequence alignment of homologous proteins. These subtle inter-dependencies in the occupancy of residue positions throughout evolution are crucial for protein function, but we found that three current Rosetta design approaches fail to recover these co-evolutionary couplings. Thus, we developed the Rosetta method ResCue (residue-coupling enhanced) that leverages co-evolutionary information to favor sequences which recapitulate correlated mutations, as observed in nature. To assess the protocols via recapitulation designs, we compiled a benchmark of ten proteins each represented by two, structurally diverse states. We could demonstrate that ResCue designed sequences with an average sequence recovery rate of 70%, whereas three other protocols reached not more than 50%, on average. Our approach had higher recovery rates also for functionally important residues, which were studied in detail. This improvement has only a minor negative effect on the fitness of the designed sequences as assessed by Rosetta energy. In conclusion, our findings support the idea that informing protocols with co-evolutionary signals helps to design stable and native-like proteins that are compatible with the different conformational states required for a complex function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008568DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7815116PMC
January 2021

Sequence and functional differences in the ATPase domains of CHD3 and SNF2H promise potential for selective regulability and drugability.

FEBS J 2021 Jan 5. Epub 2021 Jan 5.

Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, Biochemistry III, University of Regensburg, Germany.

Chromatin remodelers use the energy of ATP hydrolysis to regulate chromatin dynamics. Their impact for development and disease requires strict enzymatic control. Here, we address the differential regulability of the ATPase domain of hSNF2H and hCHD3, exhibiting similar substrate affinities and enzymatic activities. Both enzymes are comparably strongly inhibited in their ATP hydrolysis activity by the competitive ATPase inhibitor ADP. However, the nucleosome remodeling activity of SNF2H is more strongly affected than that of CHD3. Beside ADP, also IP inhibits the nucleosome translocation of both enzymes to varying degrees, following a competitive inhibition mode at CHD3, but not at SNF2H. Our observations are further substantiated by mutating conserved Q- and K-residues of ATPase domain motifs. The variants still bind both substrates and exhibit a wild-type similar, basal ATP hydrolysis. Apart from three CHD3 variants, none of the variants can translocate nucleosomes, suggesting for the first time that the basal ATPase activity of CHD3 is sufficient for nucleosome remodeling. Together with the ADP data, our results propose a more efficient coupling of ATP hydrolysis and remodeling in CHD3. This aspect correlates with findings that CHD3 nucleosome translocation is visible at much lower ATP concentrations than SNF2H. We propose sequence differences between the ATPase domains of both enzymes as an explanation for the functional differences and suggest that aa interactions, including the conserved Q- and K-residues distinctly regulate ATPase-dependent functions of both proteins. Our data emphasize the benefits of remodeler ATPase domains for selective drugability and/or regulability of chromatin dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.15699DOI Listing
January 2021

Reprogramming the Specificity of a Protein Interface by Computational and Data-Driven Design.

Structure 2021 Mar 8;29(3):292-304.e3. Epub 2020 Dec 8.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, Regensburg Center for Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

The formation of specific protein complexes in a cell is a non-trivial problem given the co-existence of thousands of different polypeptide chains. A particularly difficult case are two glutamine amidotransferase complexes (anthranilate synthase [AS] and aminodeoxychorismate synthase [ADCS]), which are composed of homologous pairs of synthase and glutaminase subunits. We have attempted to identify discriminating interface residues of the glutaminase subunit TrpG from AS, which are responsible for its specific interaction with the synthase subunit TrpEx and prevent binding to the closely related synthase subunit PabB from ADCS. For this purpose, TrpG-specific interface residues were grafted into the glutaminase subunit PabA from ADCS by two different approaches, namely a computational and a data-driven one. Both approaches resulted in PabA variants that bound TrpEx with higher affinity than PabB. Hence, we have accomplished a reprogramming of protein-protein interaction specificity that provides insights into the evolutionary adaptation of protein interfaces.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.str.2020.11.013DOI Listing
March 2021

Towards Photochromic Azobenzene-Based Inhibitors for Tryptophan Synthase.

Chemistry 2021 Feb 22;27(7):2439-2451. Epub 2020 Dec 22.

Institute for Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, Regensburg Center for Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 31, 93040, Regensburg, Germany.

Light regulation of drug molecules has gained growing interest in biochemical and pharmacological research in recent years. In addition, a serious need for novel molecular targets of antibiotics has emerged presently. Herein, the development of a photocontrollable, azobenzene-based antibiotic precursor towards tryptophan synthase (TS), an essential metabolic multienzyme complex in bacteria, is presented. The compound exhibited moderately strong inhibition of TS in its E configuration and five times lower inhibition strength in its Z configuration. A combination of biochemical, crystallographic, and computational analyses was used to characterize the inhibition mode of this compound. Remarkably, binding of the inhibitor to a hitherto-unconsidered cavity results in an unproductive conformation of TS leading to noncompetitive inhibition of tryptophan production. In conclusion, we created a promising lead compound for combatting bacterial diseases, which targets an essential metabolic enzyme, and whose inhibition strength can be controlled with light.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.202004061DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7898615PMC
February 2021

The Alazami Syndrome-Associated Protein LARP7 Guides U6 Small Nuclear RNA Modification and Contributes to Splicing Robustness.

Mol Cell 2020 03 3;77(5):1014-1031.e13. Epub 2020 Feb 3.

Biochemistry Center Regensburg (BZR), Laboratory for RNA Biology, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

The La-related protein 7 (LARP7) forms a complex with the nuclear 7SK RNA to regulate RNA polymerase II transcription. It has been implicated in cancer and the Alazami syndrome, a severe developmental disorder. Here, we report a so far unknown role of this protein in RNA modification. We show that LARP7 physically connects the spliceosomal U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) with a distinct subset of box C/D small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) guiding U6 2'-O-methylation. Consistently, these modifications are severely compromised in the absence of LARP7. Although general splicing remains largely unaffected, transcriptome-wide analysis revealed perturbations in alternative splicing in LARP7-depleted cells. Importantly, we identified defects in 2'-O-methylation of the U6 snRNA in Alazami syndrome siblings carrying a LARP7 mutation. Our data identify LARP7 as a bridging factor for snoRNA-guided modification of the U6 snRNA and suggest that alterations in splicing fidelity contribute to the etiology of the Alazami syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2020.01.001DOI Listing
March 2020

Conserved genomic neighborhood is a strong but no perfect indicator for a direct interaction of microbial gene products.

BMC Bioinformatics 2020 Jan 3;21(1). Epub 2020 Jan 3.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93040, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: The order of genes in bacterial genomes is not random; for example, the products of genes belonging to an operon work together in the same pathway. The cotranslational assembly of protein complexes is deemed to conserve genomic neighborhoods even stronger than a common function. This is why a conserved genomic neighborhood can be utilized to predict, whether gene products form protein complexes.

Results: We were interested to assess the performance of a neighborhood-based classifier that analyzes a large number of genomes. Thus, we determined for the genes encoding the subunits of 494 experimentally verified hetero-dimers their local genomic context. In order to generate phylogenetically comprehensive genomic neighborhoods, we utilized the tools offered by the Enzyme Function Initiative. For each subunit, a sequence similarity network was generated and the corresponding genome neighborhood network was analyzed to deduce the most frequent gene product. This was predicted as interaction partner, if its abundance exceeded a threshold, which was the frequency giving rise to the maximal Matthews correlation coefficient. For the threshold of 16%, the true positive rate was 45%, the false positive rate 0.06%, and the precision 55%. For approximately 20% of the subunits, the interaction partner was not found in a neighborhood of ± 10 genes.

Conclusions: Our phylogenetically comprehensive analysis confirmed that complex formation is a strong evolutionary factor that conserves genome neighborhoods. On the other hand, for 55% of the cases analyzed here, classification failed. Either, the interaction partner was not present in a ± 10 gene window or was not the most frequent gene product.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12859-019-3200-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6941341PMC
January 2020

Analysis of allosteric communication in a multienzyme complex by ancestral sequence reconstruction.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 01 23;117(1):346-354. Epub 2019 Dec 23.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93053 Regensburg, Germany

Tryptophan synthase (TS) is a heterotetrameric αββα complex. It is characterized by the channeling of the reaction intermediate indole and the mutual activation of the α-subunit TrpA and the β-subunit TrpB via a complex allosteric network. We have analyzed this allosteric network by means of ancestral sequence reconstruction (ASR), which is an in silico method to resurrect extinct ancestors of modern proteins. Previously, the sequences of TrpA and TrpB from the last bacterial common ancestor (LBCA) have been computed by means of ASR and characterized. LBCA-TS is similar to modern TS by forming a αββα complex with indole channeling taking place. However, LBCA-TrpA allosterically decreases the activity of LBCA-TrpB, whereas, for example, the modern ncTrpA from allosterically increases the activity of ncTrpB. To identify amino acid residues that are responsible for this inversion of the allosteric effect, all 6 evolutionary TrpA and TrpB intermediates that stepwise link LBCA-TS with ncTS were characterized. Remarkably, the switching from TrpB inhibition to TrpB activation by TrpA occurred between 2 successive TS intermediates. Sequence comparison of these 2 intermediates and iterative rounds of site-directed mutagenesis allowed us to identify 4 of 413 residues from TrpB that are crucial for its allosteric activation by TrpA. The effect of our mutational studies was rationalized by a community analysis based on molecular dynamics simulations. Our findings demonstrate that ancestral sequence reconstruction can efficiently identify residues contributing to allosteric signal propagation in multienzyme complexes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1912132117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955334PMC
January 2020

Light-Regulation of Tryptophan Synthase by Combining Protein Design and Enzymology.

Int J Mol Sci 2019 Oct 15;20(20). Epub 2019 Oct 15.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

The spatiotemporal control of enzymes by light is of growing importance for industrial biocatalysis. Within this context, the photo-control of allosteric interactions in enzyme complexes, common to practically all metabolic pathways, is particularly relevant. A prominent example of a metabolic complex with a high application potential is tryptophan synthase from (TS), in which the constituting TrpA and TrpB subunits mutually stimulate each other via a sophisticated allosteric network. To control TS allostery with light, we incorporated the unnatural amino acid -nitrobenzyl--tyrosine (ONBY) at seven strategic positions of TrpA and TrpB. Initial screening experiments showed that ONBY in position 58 of TrpA (aL58ONBY) inhibits TS activity most effectively. Upon UV irradiation, ONBY decages to tyrosine, largely restoring the capacity of TS. Biochemical characterization, extensive steady-state enzyme kinetics, and titration studies uncovered the impact of aL58ONBY on the activities of TrpA and TrpB and identified reaction conditions under which the influence of ONBY decaging on allostery reaches its full potential. By applying those optimal conditions, we succeeded to directly light-activate TS(aL58ONBY) by a factor of ~100. Our findings show that rational protein design with a photo-sensitive unnatural amino acid combined with extensive enzymology is a powerful tool to fine-tune allosteric light-activation of a central metabolic enzyme complex.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms20205106DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6829457PMC
October 2019

Light Regulation of Enzyme Allostery through Photo-responsive Unnatural Amino Acids.

Cell Chem Biol 2019 11 5;26(11):1501-1514.e9. Epub 2019 Sep 5.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

Imidazole glycerol phosphate synthase (ImGPS) is an allosteric bienzyme complex in which substrate binding to the synthase subunit HisF stimulates the glutaminase subunit HisH. To control this stimulation with light, we have incorporated the photo-responsive unnatural amino acids phenylalanine-4'-azobenzene (AzoF), o-nitropiperonyl-O-tyrosine (NPY), and methyl-o-nitropiperonyllysine (mNPK) at strategic positions of HisF. The light-mediated isomerization of AzoF at position 55 (fS55AzoF ↔ fS55AzoF) resulted in a reversible 10-fold regulation of HisH activity. The light-mediated decaging of NPY at position 39 (fY39NPY → fY39) and of mNPK at position 99 (fK99mNPK → fK99) led to a 4- to 6-fold increase of HisH activity. Molecular dynamics simulations explained how the unnatural amino acids interfere with the allosteric machinery of ImGPS and revealed additional aspects of HisH stimulation in wild-type ImGPS. Our findings show that unnatural amino acids can be used as a powerful tool for the spatiotemporal control of a central metabolic enzyme complex by light.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2019.08.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293202PMC
November 2019

Prediction of quaternary structure by analysis of hot spot residues in protein-protein interfaces: the case of anthranilate phosphoribosyltransferases.

Proteins 2019 10 10;87(10):815-825. Epub 2019 Jun 10.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

It is an important goal of computational biology to correctly predict the association state of a protein based on its amino acid sequence and the structures of known homologues. We have pursued this goal on the example of anthranilate phosphoribosyltransferase (AnPRT), an enzyme that is involved in the biosynthesis of the amino acid tryptophan. Firstly, known crystal structures of naturally occurring homodimeric AnPRTs were analyzed using the Protein Interfaces, Surfaces, and Assemblies (PISA) service of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). This led to the identification of two hydrophobic "hot spot" amino acids in the protein-protein interface that were predicted to be essential for self-association. Next, in a comprehensive multiple sequence alignment (MSA), naturally occurring AnPRT variants with hydrophilic or charged amino acids in place of hydrophobic residues in the two hot spot positions were identified. Representative variants were characterized in terms of thermal stability, enzymatic activity, and quaternary structure. We found that AnPRT variants with charged residues in both hot spot positions exist exclusively as monomers in solution. Variants with hydrophilic amino acids in one hot spot position occur in both forms, monomer and dimer. The results of the present study provide a detailed characterization of the determinants of the AnPRT monomer-dimer equilibrium and show that analysis of hot spots in combination with MSAs can be a valuable tool in prediction of protein quaternary structures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/prot.25744DOI Listing
October 2019

Mapping the Allosteric Communication Network of Aminodeoxychorismate Synthase.

J Mol Biol 2019 07 21;431(15):2718-2728. Epub 2019 May 21.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

Allosteric communication between different subunits in metabolic enzyme complexes is of utmost physiological importance but only understood for few systems. We analyzed the structural basis of allostery in aminodeoxychorismate synthase (ADCS), which is a member of the family of glutamine amidotransferases and catalyzes the committed step of the folate biosynthetic pathway. ADCS consists of the synthase subunit PabB and the glutaminase subunit PabA, which is allosterically stimulated by the presence of the PabB substrate chorismate. We first solved the crystal structure of a PabA subunit at 1.9-Å resolution. Based on this structure and the known structure of PabB, we computed an atomic model for the ADCS complex. We then used alanine scanning to test the functional role of 59 conserved residues located between the active sites of PabB and PabA. Steady-state kinetic characterization revealed four branches of a conserved network of mainly charged residues that propagate the signal from chorismate at the PabB active site to the PabA active site. The branches eventually lead to activity-inducing transformations at (i) the oxyanion hole motif, (ii) the catalytic Cys-His-Glu triad, and (iii) glutamine binding residues at the PabA active site. We compare our findings with previously postulated activation mechanisms of different glutamine amidotransferases and propose a unifying regulation mechanism for this ubiquitous family of enzymes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2019.05.021DOI Listing
July 2019

A Fold-Independent Interface Residue Is Crucial for Complex Formation and Allosteric Signaling in Class I Glutamine Amidotransferases.

Biochemistry 2019 06 23;58(22):2584-2588. Epub 2019 May 23.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry , University of Regensburg , D-93040 Regensburg , Germany.

The members of the glutamine amidotransferase (GATase) family catalyze the incorporation of ammonia within numerous metabolic pathways and can be categorized in two classes. Here, we concentrated on class I GATases, which are heteromeric enzyme complexes consisting of synthase subunits and glutaminase subunits with a catalytic Cys-His-Glu triad. Glutamine hydrolysis at the glutaminase subunit is (i) dependent on the formation of tight synthase-glutaminase complexes and (ii) allosterically coupled to the presence of the substrate at the synthase subunit. The structural basis of both complex formation and allostery is poorly understood. However, previous work on 4-amino-4-deoxychorismate synthase and imidazole glycerol phosphate synthase suggested that a conserved aspartate residue in their synthase subunits, which is located at the subunit interface close to the glutaminase catalytic triad, might be important for both features. We performed a computational screen of class I GATases from the Protein Data Bank and identified conserved and similarly located aspartate residues. We then generated alanine and glutamate mutants of these residues and characterized them by analytical gel filtration and steady-state enzyme kinetics. The results confirmed the important role of the wild-type aspartate residues for the formation of stable synthase-glutaminase complexes (in three of four cases) and the stimulation of glutaminase activity in the analyzed GATases (in all four cases). We present a model for rationalizing the dual role of the conserved aspartate residue toward a unifying regulation mechanism in the entire class I GATase family.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.biochem.9b00286DOI Listing
June 2019

Identification of the retinoschisin-binding site on the retinal Na/K-ATPase.

PLoS One 2019 2;14(5):e0216320. Epub 2019 May 2.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

X-linked juvenile retinoschisis (XLRS) is a hereditary retinal dystrophy, caused by mutations in the RS1 gene which encodes the secreted protein retinoschisin. In recent years, several molecules have been proposed to interact with retinoschisin, including the retinal Na/K-ATPase, L-voltage gated Ca2+ channels, and specific sugars. We recently showed that the retinal Na/K-ATPase consisting of subunits ATP1A3 and ATP1B2 is essential for anchoring retinoschisin to plasma membranes and identified the glycosylated ATP1B2 subunit as the direct interaction partner for retinoschisin. We now aimed to precisely map the retinoschisin binding domain(s) in ATP1B2. In general, retinoschisin binding was not affected after selective elimination of individual glycosylation sites via site-directed mutagenesis as well as after full enzymatic deglycosylation of ATP1B2. Applying the interface prediction tool PresCont, two putative protein-protein interaction patches ("patch I" and "patch II") consisting each of four hydrophobic amino acid stretches on the ATP1B2 surface were identified. These were consecutively altered by site-directed mutagenesis. Functional assays with the ATP1B2 patch mutants identified patch II and, specifically, the associated amino acid at position 240 (harboring a threonine in ATP1B2) as crucial for retinoschisin binding to ATP1B2. These and previous results led us to suggest an induced-fit binding mechanism for the interaction between retinoschisin and the Na/K-ATPase, which is dependent on threonine 240 in ATP1B2 allowing the accommodation of hyperflexible retinoschisin spikes by the associated protein-protein interaction patch on ATP1B2.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216320PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497308PMC
January 2020

Functional characterisation of two Δ12-desaturases demonstrates targeted production of linoleic acid as pheromone precursor in .

J Exp Biol 2019 05 16;222(Pt 10). Epub 2019 May 16.

Department of Ecological Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Insect pheromones are often derived from fatty acid metabolism. Fatty acid desaturases, enzymes introducing double bonds into fatty acids, are crucial for the biosynthesis of these chemical signals. Δ12-desaturases catalyse the biosynthesis of linoleic acid by introducing a second double bond into oleic acid, but have been identified in only a few animal species. Here, we report the functional characterisation of two Δ12-desaturases, Nvit_D12a and Nvit_D12b, from the parasitic wasp We demonstrate that Nvit_D12a is expressed in the rectal vesicle of males where they produce a linoleic acid-derived sex pheromone to attract virgin females. C-labelling experiments with , a closely related species belonging to the ' group', revealed that females, but not males, are able to synthesise linoleic acid. males produce an isoprenoid sex pheromone in the same gland and do not depend on linoleic acid for pheromone production. This suggests that Δ12-desaturases are common in the ' group', but acquired a specialised function in chemical communication of those species that use linoleic acid as a pheromone precursor. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that insect Δ12-desaturases have evolved repeatedly from Δ9-desaturases in different insect taxa. Hence, insects have developed a way to produce linoleic acid independent of the omega desaturase subfamily which harbours all of the eukaryotic Δ12-desaturases known so far.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.201038DOI Listing
May 2019

Sequence selection by FitSS4ASR alleviates ancestral sequence reconstruction as exemplified for geranylgeranylglyceryl phosphate synthase.

Biol Chem 2019 02;400(3):367-381

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 31, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany.

For evolutionary studies, but also for protein engineering, ancestral sequence reconstruction (ASR) has become an indispensable tool. The first step of every ASR protocol is the preparation of a representative sequence set containing at most a few hundred recent homologs whose composition determines decisively the outcome of a reconstruction. A common approach for sequence selection consists of several rounds of manual recompilation that is driven by embedded phylogenetic analyses of the varied sequence sets. For ASR of a geranylgeranylglyceryl phosphate synthase, we additionally utilized FitSS4ASR, which replaces this time-consuming protocol with an efficient and more rational approach. FitSS4ASR applies orthogonal filters to a set of homologs to eliminate outlier sequences and those bearing only a weak phylogenetic signal. To demonstrate the usefulness of FitSS4ASR, we determined experimentally the oligomerization state of eight predecessors, which is a delicate and taxon-specific property. Corresponding ancestors deduced in a manual approach and by means of FitSS4ASR had the same dimeric or hexameric conformation; this concordance testifies to the efficiency of FitSS4ASR for sequence selection. FitSS4ASR-based results of two other ASR experiments were added to the Supporting Information. Program and documentation are available at https://gitlab.bioinf.ur.de/hek61586/FitSS4ASR.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/hsz-2018-0344DOI Listing
February 2019

Elucidation of the functional roles of the Q and I motifs in the human chromatin-remodeling enzyme BRG1.

J Biol Chem 2019 03 15;294(9):3294-3310. Epub 2019 Jan 15.

From the Departments of Biochemistry III and

The Snf2 proteins, comprising 53 different enzymes in humans, belong to the SF2 family. Many Snf2 enzymes possess chromatin-remodeling activity, requiring a functional ATPase domain consisting of conserved motifs named Q and I-VII. These motifs form two recA-like domains, creating an ATP-binding pocket. Little is known about the function of the conserved motifs in chromatin-remodeling enzymes. Here, we characterized the function of the Q and I (Walker I) motifs in hBRG1 (SMARCA4). The motifs are in close proximity to the bound ATP, suggesting a role in nucleotide binding and/or hydrolysis. Unexpectedly, when substituting the conserved residues Gln (Q motif) or Lys (I motif) of both motifs, all variants still bound ATP and exhibited basal ATPase activity similar to that of wildtype BRG1 (wtBRG1). However, all mutants lost the nucleosome-dependent stimulation of the ATPase domain. Their chromatin-remodeling rates were impaired accordingly, but nucleosome binding was retained and still comparable with that of wtBRG1. Interestingly, a cancer-relevant substitution, L754F (Q motif), displayed defects similar to the Gln variant(s), arguing for a comparable loss of function. Because we excluded a mutual interference of ATP and nucleosome binding, we postulate that both motifs stimulate the ATPase and chromatin-remodeling activities upon binding of BRG1 to nucleosomes, probably via allosteric mechanisms. Furthermore, mutations of both motifs similarly affect the enzymatic functionality of BRG1 and in living cells. Of note, in BRG1-deficient H1299 cells, exogenously expressed wtBRG1, but not BRG1 Q758A and BRG1 K785R, exhibited a tumor suppressor-like function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA118.005685DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398141PMC
March 2019

The long non-coding RNA LINC00941 and SPRR5 are novel regulators of human epidermal homeostasis.

EMBO Rep 2019 02 8;20(2). Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Institute of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

Several long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) act as regulators of cellular homeostasis; however, few of these molecules were functionally characterized in a mature human tissue environment. Here, we report that the lncRNA LINC00941 is a crucial regulator of human epidermal homeostasis. LINC00941 is enriched in progenitor keratinocytes and acts as a repressor of keratinocyte differentiation. Furthermore, LINC00941 represses SPRR5, a previously uncharacterized molecule, which functions as an essential positive regulator of keratinocyte differentiation. Interestingly, 54.8% of genes repressed in SPRR5-deficient epidermal tissue are induced in LINC00941-depleted organotypic epidermis, suggesting a common mode of action for both molecules.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/embr.201846612DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6362352PMC
February 2019

Characterizing the nuclease accessibility of DNA in human cells to map higher order structures of chromatin.

Nucleic Acids Res 2019 02;47(3):1239-1254

Department of Biochemistry III, University of Regensburg, University of Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany.

Packaging of DNA into chromatin regulates DNA accessibility and consequently all DNA-dependent processes. The nucleosome is the basic packaging unit of DNA forming arrays that are suggested, by biochemical studies, to fold hierarchically into ordered higher-order structures of chromatin. This organization has been recently questioned using microscopy techniques, proposing an irregular structure. To address the principles of chromatin organization, we applied an in situ differential MNase-seq strategy and analyzed in silico the results of complete and partial digestions of human chromatin. We investigated whether different levels of chromatin packaging exist in the cell. We assessed the accessibility of chromatin within distinct domains of kb to Mb genomic regions, performed statistical analyses and computer modelling. We found no difference in MNase accessibility, suggesting no difference in fiber folding between domains of euchromatin and heterochromatin or between other sequence and epigenomic features of chromatin. Thus, our data suggests the absence of differentially organized domains of higher-order structures of chromatin. Moreover, we identified only local structural changes, with individual hyper-accessible nucleosomes surrounding regulatory elements, such as enhancers and transcription start sites. The regulatory sites per se are occupied with structurally altered nucleosomes, exhibiting increased MNase sensitivity. Our findings provide biochemical evidence that supports an irregular model of large-scale chromatin organization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gky1203DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379673PMC
February 2019

Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction as a Tool for the Elucidation of a Stepwise Evolutionary Adaptation.

Methods Mol Biol 2019 ;1851:171-182

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Ancestral sequence reconstruction (ASR) is a powerful tool to infer primordial sequences from contemporary, i.e., extant ones. An essential element of ASR is the computation of a phylogenetic tree whose leaves are the chosen extant sequences. Most often, the reconstructed sequence related to the root of this tree is of greatest interest: It represents the common ancestor (CA) of the sequences under study. If this sequence encodes a protein, one can "resurrect" the CA by means of gene synthesis technology and study biochemical properties of this extinct predecessor with the help of wet-lab experiments.However, ASR deduces also sequences for all internal nodes of the tree, and the well-considered analysis of these "intermediates" can help to elucidate evolutionary processes. Moreover, one can identify key mutations that alter proteins or protein complexes and are responsible for the differing properties of extant proteins. As an illustrative example, we describe the protocol for the rapid identification of hotspots determining the binding of the two subunits within the heteromeric complex imidazole glycerol phosphate synthase.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-8736-8_9DOI Listing
May 2019

Development of photoswitchable inhibitors for β-galactosidase.

Org Biomol Chem 2018 10;16(40):7430-7437

Institute of Organic Chemistry, University of Regensburg, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Azobenzenes are of particular interest as a photochromic scaffold for biological applications because of their high fatigue resistance, their large geometrical change between extended (trans) and bent (cis) isomer, and their diverse synthetic accessibility. Despite their wide-spread use, there is no reported photochromic inhibitor of the well-investigated enzyme β-galactosidase, which plays an important role for biochemistry and single molecule studies. Herein, we report the synthesis of photochromic competitive β-galactosidase inhibitors based on the molecular structure of 2-phenylethyl β-d-thiogalactoside (PETG) and 1-amino-1-deoxy-β-d-galactose (β-d-galactosylamine). The thermally highly stable PETG-based azobenzenes show excellent photochromic properties in polar solvents and moderate to high photostationary states (PSS). The optimized compound 37 is a strong competitive inhibitior of β-galactosidase from Escherichia coli and its inhibition constant (Ki) changes between 60 nM and 290 nM upon irradiation with light. Additional docking experiments supported the observed structure-activity relationship.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c8ob02122hDOI Listing
October 2018

Pathomechanism of mutated and secreted retinoschisin in X-linked juvenile retinoschisis.

Exp Eye Res 2018 12 21;177:23-34. Epub 2018 Jul 21.

Institute of Human Genetics, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

Mutations in the RS1 gene encoding retinoschisin cause X-linked juvenile retinoschisis (XLRS), a hereditary retinal dystrophy in males. While most of the XLRS associated mutations strongly interfere with cellular secretion, this is not true for mutants RS1-F108C, -R141G, -R141H, -R182C, -H207Q and -R209H. Native retinoschisin builds double-octamers and binds to retinal membranes, interacting with the retinal Na/K-ATPase. Functionally, it regulates MAP kinase signaling and Na/K-ATPase localization, and hampers photoreceptor degeneration. In this study, we investigated the capacity of the retinoschisin mutants still secreted extracellularly to fulfil these tasks. We addressed secretion and oligomerization of the heterologously expressed mutants as well as their binding to recombinant retinal Na/K-ATPases and murine retinoschisin-deficient (Rs1h) retinal and non-retinal explants. This has refined the categorization of secreted retinoschisin mutants: (i) no octamerization, unspecific membrane binding (RS1-F108C and -R182C), (ii) double-octamerization but no membrane binding (RS1-R141H), and (iii) double-octamerization and unspecific membrane binding (RS1-R141G, -H207Q, and -R209H). Notably, selected mutants of all categories (RS1-F108C, -R141H, and -R209H) failed to regulate retinal MAP kinase signaling and Na/K-ATPase localization in Rs1h retinal explants, and could not attenuate photoreceptor degeneration. Bioinformatic modeling of the secreted mutants depicted prominent alterations in the spatial and temporal conformation of a substructure called "spike 3" and its vicinity, implying a crucial role of this substructure for binding capacity and specificity. Taken together, our data point to a pathomechanism for secreted retinoschisin mutants, specifically to disturbances of the retinoschisin interface accompanied by unphysiological membrane interactions and impaired regulatory functions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exer.2018.07.021DOI Listing
December 2018

Artificial Light Regulation of an Allosteric Bienzyme Complex by a Photosensitive Ligand.

Chembiochem 2018 May 29. Epub 2018 May 29.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 31, 93053, Regensburg, Germany.

The artificial regulation of proteins by light is an emerging subdiscipline of synthetic biology. Here, we used this concept to photocontrol both catalysis and allostery within the heterodimeric enzyme complex imidazole glycerol phosphate synthase (ImGP-S). ImGP-S consists of the cyclase subunit HisF and the glutaminase subunit HisH, which is allosterically stimulated by substrate binding to HisF. We show that a light-sensitive diarylethene (1,2-dithienylethene, DTE)-based competitive inhibitor in its ring-open state binds with low micromolar affinity to the cyclase subunit and displaces its substrate from the active site. As a consequence, catalysis by HisF and allosteric stimulation of HisH are impaired. Following UV-light irradiation, the DTE ligand adopts its ring-closed state and loses affinity for HisF, restoring activity and allostery. Our approach allows for the switching of ImGP-S activity and allostery during catalysis and appears to be generally applicable for the light regulation of other multienzyme complexes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cbic.201800219DOI Listing
May 2018

Hexamerization of Geranylgeranylglyceryl Phosphate Synthase Ensures Structural Integrity and Catalytic Activity at High Temperatures.

Biochemistry 2018 04 11;57(16):2335-2348. Epub 2018 Apr 11.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry , University of Regensburg , 93040 Regensburg , Germany.

The cell membranes of all archaea contain ether lipids, and a number of archaea are hyperthermophilic. Consequently, the enzymes that catalyze the synthesis of membrane ether lipids had to adopt to these rough conditions. Interestingly, the enzyme that establishes the first ether bond in these lipids, the geranylgeranylglyceryl phosphate synthase (GGGPS), forms hexamers in many hyperthermophilic archaea, while also dimeric variants of this enzyme exist in other species. We used Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus GGGPS (mtGGGPS) as a model to elucidate the benefit of hexamerization. We studied the oligomerization interfaces in detail by introducing disturbing mutations and subsequently compared the stability and activity of generated dimeric and monomeric variants with the wild-type enzyme. Differential scanning calorimetry revealed a biphasic denaturation of mtGGGPS. The temperature of the first transition varies and rises with increasing oligomerization state. This first phase of denaturation leads to catalytic inactivation, but CD spectroscopy indicated only minor changes on the secondary structure level. The residual part of the fold is extremely thermostable and denatures in a second phase at temperatures >120 °C. The analysis of another distant native GGGPS enzyme affirms these observations. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed three structural elements close to the substrate binding sites with elevated flexibility. We assume that hexamerization might stabilize these structures, and kinetic studies support this hypothesis for the binding pocket of the substrate glycerol 1-phosphate. Oligomerization might thus positively affect the thermostability-flexibility trade-off in GGGPS by allowing a higher intrinsic flexibility of the individual protomers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01284DOI Listing
April 2018

The Adaptor Protein ENY2 Is a Component of the Deubiquitination Module of the Arabidopsis SAGA Transcriptional Co-activator Complex but not of the TREX-2 Complex.

J Mol Biol 2018 05 26;430(10):1479-1494. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Department of Cell Biology & Plant Biochemistry, Biochemistry Centre, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstr. 31, D-93053 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:

The conserved nuclear protein ENY2 (Sus1 in yeast) is involved in coupling transcription and mRNA export in yeast and metazoa, as it is a component both of the transcriptional co-activator complex SAGA and of the mRNA export complex TREX-2. Arabidopsis thaliana ENY2 is widely expressed in the plant and it localizes to the nucleoplasm, but unlike its yeast/metazoan orthologs, it is not enriched in the nuclear envelope. Affinity purification of ENY2 in combination with mass spectrometry revealed that it co-purified with SAGA components, but not with the nuclear pore-associated TREX-2. In addition, further targeted proteomics analyses by reciprocal tagging established the composition of the Arabidopsis SAGA complex consisting of the four modules HATm, SPTm, TAFm and DUBm, and that several SAGA subunits occur in alternative variants. While the HATm, SPTm and TAFm robustly co-purified with each other, the deubiquitination module (DUBm) appears to associate with the other SAGA modules more weakly/dynamically. Consistent with a homology model of the Arabidopsis DUBm, the SGF11 protein interacts directly with ENY2 and UBP22. Plants depleted in the DUBm components, SGF11 or ENY2, are phenotypically only mildly affected, but they contain increased levels of ubiquitinated histone H2B, indicating that the SAGA-DUBm has histone deubiquitination activity in plants. In addition to transcription-related proteins (i.e., transcript elongation factors, Mediator), many splicing factors were found to associate with SAGA, linking the SAGA complex and ongoing transcription with mRNA processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2018.03.018DOI Listing
May 2018

Relationship of Catalysis and Active Site Loop Dynamics in the (βα)-Barrel Enzyme Indole-3-glycerol Phosphate Synthase.

Biochemistry 2018 06 8;57(23):3265-3277. Epub 2018 Mar 8.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry , University of Regensburg , Universitätsstrasse 31 , D-93053 Regensburg , Germany.

It is important to understand how the catalytic activity of enzymes is related to their conformational flexibility. We have studied this activity-flexibility correlation using the example of indole-3-glycerol phosphate synthase from Sulfolobus solfataricus (ssIGPS), which catalyzes the fifth step in the biosynthesis of tryptophan. ssIGPS is a thermostable representative of enzymes with the frequently encountered and catalytically versatile (βα)-barrel fold. Four variants of ssIGPS with increased catalytic turnover numbers were analyzed by transient kinetics at 25 °C, and wild-type ssIGPS was likewise analyzed both at 25 °C and at 60 °C. Global fitting with a minimal three-step model provided the individual rate constants for substrate binding, chemical transformation, and product release. The results showed that in both cases, namely, the application of activating mutations and temperature increase, the net increase in the catalytic turnover number is afforded by acceleration of the product release rate relative to the chemical transformation steps. Measurements of the solvent viscosity effect at 25 °C versus 60 °C confirmed this change in the rate-determining step with temperature, which is in accordance with a kink in the Arrhenius diagram of ssIGPS at ∼40 °C. When rotational diffusion rates of electron paramagnetic spin-labels attached to active site loop β1α1 are plotted in the form of an Arrhenius diagram, kinks are observed at the same temperature. These findings, together with molecular dynamics simulations, demonstrate that a different degree of loop mobility correlates with different rate-limiting steps in the catalytic mechanism of ssIGPS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.biochem.8b00167DOI Listing
June 2018

Evolutionary diversification of protein-protein interactions by interface add-ons.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 10 18;114(40):E8333-E8342. Epub 2017 Sep 18.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany;

Cells contain a multitude of protein complexes whose subunits interact with high specificity. However, the number of different protein folds and interface geometries found in nature is limited. This raises the question of how protein-protein interaction specificity is achieved on the structural level and how the formation of nonphysiological complexes is avoided. Here, we describe structural elements called interface add-ons that fulfill this function and elucidate their role for the diversification of protein-protein interactions during evolution. We identified interface add-ons in 10% of a representative set of bacterial, heteromeric protein complexes. The importance of interface add-ons for protein-protein interaction specificity is demonstrated by an exemplary experimental characterization of over 30 cognate and hybrid glutamine amidotransferase complexes in combination with comprehensive genetic profiling and protein design. Moreover, growth experiments showed that the lack of interface add-ons can lead to physiologically harmful cross-talk between essential biosynthetic pathways. In sum, our complementary in silico, in vitro, and in vivo analysis argues that interface add-ons are a practical and widespread evolutionary strategy to prevent the formation of nonphysiological complexes by specializing protein-protein interactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707335114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5635890PMC
October 2017

Rosetta:MSF: a modular framework for multi-state computational protein design.

PLoS Comput Biol 2017 Jun 12;13(6):e1005600. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Computational protein design (CPD) is a powerful technique to engineer existing proteins or to design novel ones that display desired properties. Rosetta is a software suite including algorithms for computational modeling and analysis of protein structures and offers many elaborate protocols created to solve highly specific tasks of protein engineering. Most of Rosetta's protocols optimize sequences based on a single conformation (i. e. design state). However, challenging CPD objectives like multi-specificity design or the concurrent consideration of positive and negative design goals demand the simultaneous assessment of multiple states. This is why we have developed the multi-state framework MSF that facilitates the implementation of Rosetta's single-state protocols in a multi-state environment and made available two frequently used protocols. Utilizing MSF, we demonstrated for one of these protocols that multi-state design yields a 15% higher performance than single-state design on a ligand-binding benchmark consisting of structural conformations. With this protocol, we designed de novo nine retro-aldolases on a conformational ensemble deduced from a (βα)8-barrel protein. All variants displayed measurable catalytic activity, testifying to a high success rate for this concept of multi-state enzyme design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005600DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5484525PMC
June 2017

AGeNNT: annotation of enzyme families by means of refined neighborhood networks.

BMC Bioinformatics 2017 May 25;18(1):274. Epub 2017 May 25.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93040, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: Large enzyme families may contain functionally diverse members that give rise to clusters in a sequence similarity network (SSN). In prokaryotes, the genome neighborhood of a gene-product is indicative of its function and thus, a genome neighborhood network (GNN) deduced for an SSN provides strong clues to the specific function of enzymes constituting the different clusters. The Enzyme Function Initiative ( http://enzymefunction.org/ ) offers services that compute SSNs and GNNs.

Results: We have implemented AGeNNT that utilizes these services, albeit with datasets purged with respect to unspecific protein functions and overrepresented species. AGeNNT generates refined GNNs (rGNNs) that consist of cluster-nodes representing the sequences under study and Pfam-nodes representing enzyme functions encoded in the respective neighborhoods. For cluster-nodes, AGeNNT summarizes the phylogenetic relationships of the contributing species and a statistic indicates how unique nodes and GNs are within this rGNN. Pfam-nodes are annotated with additional features like GO terms describing protein function. For edges, the coverage is given, which is the relative number of neighborhoods containing the considered enzyme function (Pfam-node). AGeNNT is available at https://github.com/kandlinf/agennt .

Conclusions: An rGNN is easier to interpret than a conventional GNN, which commonly contains proteins without enzymatic function and overly specific neighborhoods due to phylogenetic bias. The implemented filter routines and the statistic allow the user to identify those neighborhoods that are most indicative of a specific metabolic capacity. Thus, AGeNNT facilitates to distinguish and annotate functionally different members of enzyme families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12859-017-1689-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5445326PMC
May 2017

Assessing in silico the recruitment and functional spectrum of bacterial enzymes from secondary metabolism.

BMC Evol Biol 2017 01 26;17(1):36. Epub 2017 Jan 26.

Institute of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry, University of Regensburg, D-93040, Regensburg, Germany.

Background: Microbes, plants, and fungi synthesize an enormous number of metabolites exhibiting rich chemical diversity. For a high-level classification, metabolism is subdivided into primary (PM) and secondary (SM) metabolism. SM products are often not essential for survival of the organism and it is generally assumed that SM enzymes stem from PM homologs.

Results: We wanted to assess evolutionary relationships and function of bona fide bacterial PM and SM enzymes. Thus, we analyzed the content of 1010 biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) from the MIBiG dataset; the encoded bacterial enzymes served as representatives of SM. The content of 15 bacterial genomes known not to harbor BGCs served as a representation of PM. Enzymes were categorized on their EC number and for these enzyme functions, frequencies were determined. The comparison of PM/SM frequencies indicates a certain preference for hydrolases (EC class 3) and ligases (EC class 6) in PM and of oxidoreductases (EC class 1) and lyases (EC class 4) in SM. Based on BLAST searches, we determined pairs of PM/SM homologs and their functional diversity. Oxidoreductases, transferases (EC class 2), lyases and isomerases (EC class 5) form a tightly interlinked network indicating that many protein folds can accommodate different functions in PM and SM. In contrast, the functional diversity of hydrolases and especially ligases is significantly limited in PM and SM. For the most direct comparison of PM/SM homologs, we restricted for each BGC the search to the content of the genome it comes from. For each homologous hit, the contribution of the genomic neighborhood to metabolic pathways was summarized in BGC-specific html-pages that are interlinked with KEGG; this dataset can be downloaded from https://www.bioinf.ur.de .

Conclusions: Only few reaction chemistries are overrepresented in bacterial SM and at least 55% of the enzymatic functions present in BGCs possess PM homologs. Many SM enzymes arose in PM and Nature utilized the evolvability of enzymes similarly to establish novel functions both in PM and SM. Future work aimed at the elucidation of evolutionary routes that have interconverted a PM enzyme into an SM homolog can profit from our BGC-specific annotations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12862-017-0886-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5270213PMC
January 2017