group leader: Prof. Blankenfeldt

Recent Submissions

  • Recent developments in the isolation, biological function, biosynthesis, and synthesis of phenazine natural products.

    Guttenberger, Nikolaus; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Breinbauer, Rolf; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-11-15)
    Phenazines are natural products which are produced by bacteria or by archaeal Methanosarcina species. The tricyclic ring system enables redox processes, which producing organisms use for oxidation of NADH or for the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), giving them advantages over other microorganisms. In this review we summarize the progress in the field since 2005 regarding the isolation of new phenazine natural products, new insights in their biological function, and particularly the now almost completely understood biosynthesis. The review is complemented by a description of new synthetic methods and total syntheses of phenazines.
  • Single domain antibodies for the knockdown of cytosolic and nuclear proteins.

    Böldicke, Thomas; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-05-01)
    Single domain antibodies (sdAbs) from camels or sharks comprise only the variable heavy chain domain. Human sdAbs comprise the variable domain of the heavy chain (VH) or light chain (VL) and can be selected from human antibodies. SdAbs are stable, nonaggregating molecules in vitro and in vivo compared to complete antibodies and scFv fragments. They are excellent novel inhibitors of cytosolic/nuclear proteins because they are correctly folded inside the cytosol in contrast to scFv fragments. SdAbs are unique because of their excellent specificity and possibility to target posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation sites, conformers or interaction regions of proteins that cannot be targeted with genetic knockout techniques and are impossible to knockdown with RNAi. The number of inhibiting cytosolic/nuclear sdAbs is increasing and usage of synthetic single pot single domain antibody libraries will boost the generation of these fascinating molecules without the need of immunization. The most frequently selected antigenic epitopes belong to viral and oncogenic proteins, followed by toxins, proteins of the nervous system as well as plant- and drosophila proteins. It is now possible to select functional sdAbs against virtually every cytosolic/nuclear protein and desired epitope. The development of new endosomal escape protein domains and cell-penetrating peptides for efficient transfection broaden the application of inhibiting sdAbs. Last but not least, the generation of relatively new cell-specific nanoparticles such as polymersomes and polyplexes carrying cytosolic/nuclear sdAb-DNA or -protein will pave the way to apply cytosolic/nuclear sdAbs for inhibition of viral infection and cancer in the clinic.
  • Biosynthesis of Violacein, Structure and Function of l-Tryptophan Oxidase VioA from Chromobacterium violaceum.

    Füller, Janis J; Röpke, René; Krausze, Joern; Rennhack, Kim E; Daniel, Nils P; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Schulz, Stefan; Jahn, Dieter; Moser, Jürgen; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
    Violacein is a natural purple pigment of Chromobacterium violaceum with potential medical applications as antimicrobial, antiviral, and anticancer drugs. The initial step of violacein biosynthesis is the oxidative conversion of l-tryptophan into the corresponding α-imine catalyzed by the flavoenzyme l-tryptophan oxidase (VioA). A substrate-related (3-(1H-indol-3-yl)-2-methylpropanoic acid) and a product-related (2-(1H-indol-3-ylmethyl)prop-2-enoic acid) competitive VioA inhibitor was synthesized for subsequent kinetic and x-ray crystallographic investigations. Structures of the binary VioA·FADH2 and of the ternary VioA·FADH2·2-(1H-indol-3-ylmethyl)prop-2-enoic acid complex were resolved. VioA forms a "loosely associated" homodimer as indicated by small-angle x-ray scattering experiments. VioA belongs to the glutathione reductase family 2 of FAD-dependent oxidoreductases according to the structurally conserved cofactor binding domain. The substrate-binding domain of VioA is mainly responsible for the specific recognition of l-tryptophan. Other canonical amino acids were efficiently discriminated with a minor conversion of l-phenylalanine. Furthermore, 7-aza-tryptophan, 1-methyl-tryptophan, 5-methyl-tryptophan, and 5-fluoro-tryptophan were efficient substrates of VioA. The ternary product-related VioA structure indicated involvement of protein domain movement during enzyme catalysis. Extensive structure-based mutagenesis in combination with enzyme kinetics (using l-tryptophan and substrate analogs) identified Arg(64), Lys(269), and Tyr(309) as key catalytic residues of VioA. An increased enzyme activity of protein variant H163A in the presence of l-phenylalanine indicated a functional role of His(163) in substrate binding. The combined structural and mutational analyses lead to the detailed understanding of VioA substrate recognition. Related strategies for the in vivo synthesis of novel violacein derivatives are discussed.
  • Biosynthesis of methyl-proline containing griselimycins, natural products with anti-tuberculosis activity.

    Lukat, Peer; Katsuyama, Yohei; Wenzel, Silke; Binz, Tina; König, Claudia; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Brönstrup, Mark; Müller, Rolf; Helmholtz-Institut für pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1, 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (2017-11-01)
    Griselimycins (GMs) are depsidecapeptides with superb anti-tuberculosis activity. They contain up to three (2S,4R)-4-methyl-prolines (4-MePro), of which one blocks oxidative degradation and increases metabolic stability in animal models. The natural congener with this substitution is only a minor component in fermentation cultures. We showed that this product can be significantly increased by feeding the reaction with 4-MePro and we investigated the molecular basis of 4-MePro biosynthesis and incorporation. We identified the GM biosynthetic gene cluster as encoding a nonribosomal peptide synthetase and a sub-operon for 4-MePro formation. Using heterologous expression, gene inactivation, and in vitro experiments, we showed that 4-MePro is generated by leucine hydroxylation, oxidation to an aldehyde, and ring closure with subsequent reduction. The crystal structures of the leucine hydroxylase GriE have been determined in complex with substrates and products, providing insight into the stereospecificity of the reaction.
  • RNA Interference

    Backhaus, Oliver; Böldicke, Thomas; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-10-25)
  • Characterization and structural determination of a new anti-MET function-blocking antibody with binding epitope distinct from the ligand binding domain.

    DiCara, Danielle M; Chirgadze, Dimitri Y; Pope, Anthony R; Karatt-Vellatt, Aneesh; Winter, Anja; Slavny, Peter; van den Heuvel, Joop; Parthiban, Kothai; Holland, Jane; Packman, Len C; Mavria, Georgia; Hoffmann, Jens; Birchmeier, Walter; Gherardi, Ermanno; McCafferty, John; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH. Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-08-21)
    The growth and motility factor Hepatocyte Growth Factor/Scatter Factor (HGF/SF) and its receptor, the product of the MET proto-oncogene, promote invasion and metastasis of tumor cells and have been considered potential targets for cancer therapy. We generated a new Met-blocking antibody which binds outside the ligand-binding site, and determined the crystal structure of the Fab in complex with its target, which identifies the binding site as the Met Ig1 domain. The antibody, 107_A07, inhibited HGF/SF-induced cell migration and proliferation in vitro and inhibited growth of tumor xenografts in vivo. In biochemical assays, 107_A07 competes with both HGF/SF and its truncated splice variant NK1 for MET binding, despite the location of the antibody epitope on a domain (Ig1) not reported to bind NK1 or HGF/SF. Overlay of the Fab-MET crystal structure with the InternalinB-MET crystal structure shows that the 107_A07 Fab comes into close proximity with the HGF/SF-binding SEMA domain when MET is in the "compact", InternalinB-bound conformation, but not when MET is in the "open" conformation. These findings provide further support for the importance of the "compact" conformation of the MET extracellular domain, and the relevance of this conformation to HGF/SF binding and signaling.
  • Structural, mechanistic and functional insight into gliotoxin bis-thiomethylation in Aspergillus fumigatus.

    Dolan, Stephen K; Bock, Tobias; Hering, Vanessa; Owens, Rebecca A; Jones, Gary W; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Doyle, Sean; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-02)
    Gliotoxin is an epipolythiodioxopiperazine (ETP) class toxin, contains a disulfide bridge that mediates its toxic effects via redox cycling and is produced by the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus Self-resistance against gliotoxin is effected by the gliotoxin oxidase GliT, and attenuation of gliotoxin biosynthesis is catalysed by gliotoxin S-methyltransferase GtmA. Here we describe the X-ray crystal structures of GtmA-apo (1.66 Å), GtmA complexed to S-adenosylhomocysteine (1.33 Å) and GtmA complexed to S-adenosylmethionine (2.28 Å), providing mechanistic insights into this important biotransformation. We further reveal that simultaneous elimination of the ability of A. fumigatus to dissipate highly reactive dithiol gliotoxin, via deletion of GliT and GtmA, results in the most significant hypersensitivity to exogenous gliotoxin observed to date. Indeed, quantitative proteomic analysis of ΔgliT::ΔgtmA reveals an uncontrolled over-activation of the gli-cluster upon gliotoxin exposure. The data presented herein reveal, for the first time, the extreme risk associated with intracellular dithiol gliotoxin biosynthesis-in the absence of an efficient dismutation capacity. Significantly, a previously concealed protective role for GtmA and functionality of ETP bis-thiomethylation as an ancestral protection strategy against dithiol compounds is now evident.
  • Mechanisms and Specificity of Phenazine Biosynthesis Protein PhzF.

    Diederich, Christina; Leypold, Mario; Culka, Martin; Weber, Hansjörg; Breinbauer, Rolf; Ullmann, G Matthias; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-07-24)
    Phenazines are bacterial virulence and survival factors with important roles in infectious disease. PhzF catalyzes a key reaction in their biosynthesis by isomerizing (2 S,3 S)-2,3-dihydro-3-hydroxy anthranilate (DHHA) in two steps, a [1,5]-hydrogen shift followed by tautomerization to an aminoketone. While the [1,5]-hydrogen shift requires the conserved glutamate E45, suggesting acid/base catalysis, it also shows hallmarks of a sigmatropic rearrangement, namely the suprafacial migration of a non-acidic proton. To discriminate these mechanistic alternatives, we employed enzyme kinetic measurements and computational methods. Quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) calculations revealed that the activation barrier of a proton shuttle mechanism involving E45 is significantly lower than that of a sigmatropic [1,5]-hydrogen shift. QM/MM also predicted a large kinetic isotope effect, which was indeed observed with deuterated substrate. For the tautomerization, QM/MM calculations suggested involvement of E45 and an active site water molecule, explaining the observed stereochemistry. Because these findings imply that PhzF can act only on a limited substrate spectrum, we also investigated the turnover of DHHA derivatives, of which only O-methyl and O-ethyl DHHA were converted. Together, these data reveal how PhzF orchestrates a water-free with a water-dependent step. Its unique mechanism, specificity and essential role in phenazine biosynthesis may offer opportunities for inhibitor development.
  • Intrabodies against the Polysialyltransferases ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV inhibit Polysialylation of NCAM in rhabdomyosarcoma tumor cells.

    Somplatzki, Stefan; Mühlenhoff, Martina; Kröger, Andrea; Gerardy-Schahn, Rita; Böldicke, Thomas; Helmholtz Centr for infection research (2017-05-12)
    Polysialic acid (polySia) is a carbohydrate modification of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), which is implicated in neural differentiation and plays an important role in tumor development and metastasis. Polysialylation of NCAM is mediated by two Golgi-resident polysialyltransferases (polyST) ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV. Intracellular antibodies (intrabodies; IB) expressed inside the ER and retaining proteins passing the ER such as cell surface receptors or secretory proteins provide an efficient means of protein knockdown. To inhibit the function of ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV specific ER IBs were generated starting from two corresponding hybridoma clones. Both IBs αST8SiaII-IB and αST8SiaIV-IB were constructed in the scFv format and their functions characterized in vitro and in vivo.
  • Crystal Structure of the HMG-CoA Synthase MvaS from the Gram-Negative Bacterium Myxococcus xanthus.

    Bock, Tobias; Kasten, Janin; Müller, Rolf; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-07-01)
    A critical step in bacterial isoprenoid production is the synthesis of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) catalyzed by HMG-CoA synthase (HMGCS). In myxobacteria, this enzyme is also involved in a recently discovered alternative and acetyl-CoA-dependent isovaleryl CoA biosynthesis pathway. Here we present crystal structures of MvaS, the HMGCS from Myxococcus xanthus, in complex with CoA and acetylated active site Cys115, with the second substrate acetoacetyl CoA and with the product of the condensation reaction, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA. With these structures, we show that MvaS uses the common HMGCS enzymatic mechanism and provide evidence that dimerization plays a role in the formation and stability of the active site. Overall, MvaS shows features typical of the eukaryotic HMGCS and exhibits differences from homologues from Gram-positive bacteria. This study provides insights into myxobacterial alternative isovaleryl CoA biosynthesis and thereby extends the toolbox for the biotechnological production of renewable fuel and chemicals.
  • Side effects of chaperone gene co-expression in recombinant protein production

    Martínez-Alonso, Mónica; García-Fruitós, Elena; Ferrer-Miralles, Neus; Rinas, Ursula; Villaverde, Antonio (2010-09-02)
    Abstract Insufficient availability of molecular chaperones is observed as a major bottleneck for proper protein folding in recombinant protein production. Therefore, co-production of selected sets of cell chaperones along with foreign polypeptides is a common approach to increase the yield of properly folded, recombinant proteins in bacterial cell factories. However, unbalanced amounts of folding modulators handling folding-reluctant protein species might instead trigger undesired proteolytic activities, detrimental regarding recombinant protein stability, quality and yield. This minireview summarizes the most recent observations of chaperone-linked negative side effects, mostly focusing on DnaK and GroEL sets, when using these proteins as folding assistant agents. These events are discussed in the context of the complexity of the cell quality network and the consequent intricacy of the physiological responses triggered by protein misfolding.
  • Crystal structure of the conserved domain of the DC lysosomal associated membrane protein: implications for the lysosomal glycocalyx

    Wilke, Sonja; Krausze, Joern; Büssow, Konrad (2012-07-19)
    Abstract Background The family of lysosome-associated membrane proteins (LAMP) comprises the multifunctional, ubiquitous LAMP-1 and LAMP-2, and the cell type-specific proteins DC-LAMP (LAMP-3), BAD-LAMP (UNC-46, C20orf103) and macrosialin (CD68). LAMPs have been implicated in a multitude of cellular processes, including phagocytosis, autophagy, lipid transport and aging. LAMP-2 isoform A acts as a receptor in chaperone-mediated autophagy. LAMP-2 deficiency causes the fatal Danon disease. The abundant proteins LAMP-1 and LAMP-2 are major constituents of the glycoconjugate coat present on the inside of the lysosomal membrane, the 'lysosomal glycocalyx'. The LAMP family is characterized by a conserved domain of 150 to 200 amino acids with two disulfide bonds. Results The crystal structure of the conserved domain of human DC-LAMP was solved. It is the first high-resolution structure of a heavily glycosylated lysosomal membrane protein. The structure represents a novel β-prism fold formed by two β-sheets bent by β-bulges and connected by a disulfide bond. Flexible loops and a hydrophobic pocket represent possible sites of molecular interaction. Computational models of the glycosylated luminal regions of LAMP-1 and LAMP-2 indicate that the proteins adopt a compact conformation in close proximity to the lysosomal membrane. The models correspond to the thickness of the lysosomal glycoprotein coat of only 5 to 12 nm, according to electron microscopy. Conclusion The conserved luminal domain of lysosome-associated membrane proteins forms a previously unknown β-prism fold. Insights into the structure of the lysosomal glycoprotein coat were obtained by computational models of the LAMP-1 and LAMP-2 luminal regions.
  • High level transient production of recombinant antibodies and antibody fusion proteins in HEK293 cells

    Jäger, Volker; Büssow, Konrad; Wagner, Andreas; Weber, Susanne; Hust, Michael; Frenzel, André; Schirrmann, Thomas (2013-06-26)
    Abstract Background The demand of monospecific high affinity binding reagents, particularly monoclonal antibodies, has been steadily increasing over the last years. Enhanced throughput of antibody generation has been addressed by optimizing in vitro selection using phage display which moved the major bottleneck to the production and purification of recombinant antibodies in an end-user friendly format. Single chain (sc)Fv antibody fragments require additional tags for detection and are not as suitable as immunoglobulins (Ig)G in many immunoassays. In contrast, the bivalent scFv-Fc antibody format shares many properties with IgG and has a very high application compatibility. Results In this study transient expression of scFv-Fc antibodies in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells was optimized. Production levels of 10-20 mg/L scFv-Fc antibody were achieved in adherent HEK293T cells. Employment of HEK293-6E suspension cells expressing a truncated variant of the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen (EBNA) 1 in combination with production under serum free conditions increased the volumetric yield up to 10-fold to more than 140 mg/L scFv-Fc antibody. After vector optimization and process optimization the yield of an scFv-Fc antibody and a cytotoxic antibody-RNase fusion protein further increased 3-4-fold to more than 450 mg/L. Finally, an entirely new mammalian expression vector was constructed for single step in frame cloning of scFv genes from antibody phage display libraries. Transient expression of more than 20 different scFv-Fc antibodies resulted in volumetric yields of up to 600 mg/L and 400 mg/L in average. Conclusion Transient production of recombinant scFv-Fc antibodies in HEK293-6E in combination with optimized vectors and fed batch shake flasks cultivation is efficient and robust, and integrates well into a high-throughput recombinant antibody generation pipeline.
  • The AibR-isovaleryl coenzyme A regulator and its DNA binding site - a model for the regulation of alternative de novo isovaleryl coenzyme A biosynthesis in Myxococcus xanthus.

    Bock, Tobias; Volz, Carsten; Hering, Vanessa; Scrima, Andrea; Müller, Rolf; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Hel,holtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-12-09)
    Isovaleryl coenzyme A (IV-CoA) is an important building block of iso-fatty acids. In myxobacteria, IV-CoA is essential for the formation of signaling molecules involved in fruiting body formation. Leucine degradation is the common source of IV-CoA, but a second, de novo biosynthetic route to IV-CoA termed AIB (alternative IV-CoA biosynthesis) was recently discovered in M. xanthus The AIB-operon contains the TetR-like transcriptional regulator AibR, which we characterize in this study. We demonstrate that IV-CoA binds AibR with micromolar affinity and show by gelshift experiments that AibR interacts with the promoter region of the AIB-operon once IV-CoA is present. We identify an 18-bp near-perfect palindromic repeat as containing the AibR operator and provide evidence that AibR also controls an additional genomic locus coding for a putative acetyl-CoA acetyltransferase. To elucidate atomic details, we determined crystal structures of AibR in the apo, the IV-CoA- and the IV-CoA-DNA-bound state to 1.7 Å, 2.35 Å and 2.92 Å, respectively. IV-CoA induces partial unfolding of an α-helix, which allows sequence-specific interactions between AibR and its operator. This study provides insights into AibR-mediated regulation and shows that AibR functions in an unusual TetR-like manner by blocking transcription not in the ligand-free but in the effector-bound state.
  • Crystal structure of AibC, a reductase involved in alternative de novo isovaleryl coenzyme A biosynthesis in Myxococcus xanthus.

    Bock, Tobias; Müller, Rolf; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-08)
    Isovaleryl coenzyme A (IV-CoA) performs a crucial role during development and fruiting-body formation in myxobacteria, which is reflected in the existence of a de novo biosynthetic pathway that is highly upregulated when leucine, the common precursor of IV-CoA, is limited. The final step in de novo IV-CoA biosynthesis is catalyzed by AibC, a medium-chain dehydrogenase/reductase. Here, the crystal structure of AibC from Myxococcus xanthus refined to 2.55 Å resolution is presented. The protein adopts two different conformations in the crystal lattice, which is a consequence of partial interaction with the purification tag. Based on this structure, it is suggested that AibC most probably uses a Zn(2+)-supported catalytic mechanism in which NADPH is preferred over NADH. Taken together, this study reveals structural details of the alternative IV-CoA-producing pathway in myxobacteria, which may serve as a base for further biotechnological research and biofuel production.
  • Crystallization, room-temperature X-ray diffraction and preliminary analysis of Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus LANA bound to DNA.

    Hellert, Jan; Krausze, Joern; Schulz, Thomas F; Lührs, Thorsten; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-11)
    The latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) is the latent origin-binding protein and chromatin anchor of the Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV-8) genome. Its C-terminal domain (CTD) binds sequence-specifically to the viral origin of replication, whereas the N-terminal domain links it to nucleosomes of cellular chromatin for long-term persistence in dividing host cells. Here, the crystallization and X-ray data acquisition of a mutant LANA CTD in complex with its wild-type target DNA LBS1 is described. This report describes the rational protein engineering for successful co-crystallization with DNA and X-ray diffraction data collection at room temperature on the high-brilliance third-generation synchrotron PETRA III at DESY, Germany.
  • The immunoglobulin M-degrading enzyme of Streptococcus suis, Ide Ssuis , is involved in complement evasion.

    Seele, Jana; Beineke, Andreas; Hillermann, Lena-Maria; Jaschok-Kentner, Beate; von Pawel-Rammingen, Ulrich; Valentin-Weigand, Peter; Baums, Christoph Georg; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
    Streptococcus (S.) suis is one of the most important pathogens in pigs causing meningitis, arthritis, endocarditis and serositis. Furthermore, it is also an emerging zoonotic agent. In our previous work we identified a highly specific IgM protease in S. suis, designated Ide Ssuis . The objective of this study was to characterize the function of Ide Ssuis in the host-pathogen interaction. Edman-sequencing revealed that Ide Ssuis cleaves the heavy chain of the IgM molecule between constant domain 2 and 3. As the C1q binding motif is located in the C3 domain, we hypothesized that Ide Ssuis is involved in complement evasion. Complement-mediated hemolysis induced by porcine hyperimmune sera containing erythrocyte-specific IgM was abrogated by treatment of these sera with recombinant Ide Ssuis . Furthermore, expression of Ide Ssuis reduced IgM-triggered complement deposition on the bacterial surface. An infection experiment of prime-vaccinated growing piglets suggested attenuation in the virulence of the mutant 10Δide Ssuis . Bactericidal assays confirmed a positive effect of Ide Ssuis expression on bacterial survival in porcine blood in the presence of high titers of specific IgM. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that Ide Ssuis is a novel complement evasion factor, which is important for bacterial survival in porcine blood during the early adaptive (IgM-dominated) immune response.
  • Oligomerization inhibits Legionella pneumophila PlaB phospholipase A activity.

    Kuhle, Katja; Krausze, Joern; Curth, Ute; Rössle, Manfred; Heuner, Klaus; Lang, Christina; Flieger, Antje (2014-07-04)
    The intracellularly replicating lung pathogen Legionella pneumophila consists of an extraordinary variety of phospholipases, including at least 15 different phospholipases A (PLA). Among them, PlaB, the first characterized member of a novel lipase family, is a hemolytic virulence factor that exhibits the most prominent PLA activity in L. pneumophila. We analyzed here protein oligomerization, the importance of oligomerization for activity, addressed further essential regions for activity within the PlaB C terminus, and the significance of PlaB-derived lipolytic activity for L. pneumophila intracellular replication. We determined by means of analytical ultracentrifugation and small angle x-ray scattering analysis that PlaB forms homodimers and homotetramers. The C-terminal 5, 10, or 15 amino acids, although the individual regions contributed to PLA activity, were not essential for protein tetramerization. Infection of mouse macrophages with L. pneumophila wild type, plaB knock-out mutant, and plaB complementing or various mutated plaB-harboring strains showed that catalytic activity of PlaB promotes intracellular replication. We observed that PlaB was most active in the lower nanomolar concentration range but not at or only at a low level at concentration above 0.1 μm where it exists in a dimer/tetramer equilibrium. We therefore conclude that PlaB is a virulence factor that, on the one hand, assembles in inactive tetramers at micromolar concentrations. On the other hand, oligomer dissociation at nanomolar concentrations activates PLA activity. Our data highlight the first example of concentration-dependent phospholipase inactivation by tetramerization, which may protect the bacterium from internal PLA activity, but enzyme dissociation may allow its activation after export.
  • The structural biology of phenazine biosynthesis.

    Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Parsons, James F; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Structure and Function of Proteins, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. Electronic address: (2014-09-09)
    The phenazines are a class of over 150 nitrogen-containing aromatic compounds of bacterial and archeal origin. Their redox properties not only explain their activity as broad-specificity antibiotics and virulence factors but also enable them to function as respiratory pigments, thus extending their importance to the primary metabolism of phenazine-producing species. Despite their discovery in the mid-19th century, the molecular mechanisms behind their biosynthesis have only been unraveled in the last decade. Here, we review the contribution of structural biology that has led to our current understanding of phenazine biosynthesis.
  • Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the ergothioneine-biosynthetic methyltransferase EgtD.

    Vit, Allegra; Misson, Laëtitia; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Seebeck, Florian Peter; Dept of structure and functions of proteins, Hemholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-05)
    Ergothioneine is an amino-acid betaine derivative of histidine that was discovered more than one century ago. Despite significant research pointing to a function in oxidative stress defence, the exact mechanisms of action of ergothioneine remain elusive. Although both humans and bacterial pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis seem to depend on ergothioneine, humans are devoid of the corresponding biosynthetic enzymes. Therefore, its biosynthesis may emerge as potential drug target in the development of novel therapeutics against tuberculosis. The recent identification of ergothioneine-biosynthetic genes in M. smegmatis enables a more systematic study of its biology. The pathway is initiated by EgtD, a SAM-dependent methyltransferase that catalyzes a trimethylation reaction of histidine to give N(α),N(α),N(α)-trimethylhistidine. Here, the recombinant production, purification and crystallization of EgtD are reported. Crystals of native EgtD diffracted to 2.35 Å resolution at a synchrotron beamline, whereas crystals of seleno-L-methionine-labelled protein diffracted to 1.75 Å resolution and produced a significant anomalous signal to 2.77 Å resolution at the K edge. All of the crystals belonged to space group P212121, with two EgtD monomers in the asymmetric unit.

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