Explicit influence of water microsolvation on charge transfer and dynamics in ground and excited electronic states of molecular systems
- Modern computational molecular quantum chemical studies, such as the present one, typically employ a wide range of theoretical techniques. The latter are often rather complicated and one should not generally expect that an experimental scientist in the area of physical chemistry, a potential reader of this work, should be familiar with all these techniques. To simplify the reading of the Thesis and to make it self-sufficient, it is supplied with an overview of the employed theoretical methodologies (Chapter 1). The overview explains basic quantum-chemical terminology referred to throughout the Thesis, introduces theoretical foundations of the methods and outlines their properties and limitations. In Part 1.1 of Chapter 1, methods for the solution of the molecular Schrödinger equation are introduced, while in the subsequent Parts 1.2 and 1.3 methods for the solution of the electronic Schrödinger equation are presented to find the ground and excited states, respectively. Part 1.4 is dedicated to basis-set effects which are omnipresent in electronic-structure calculations. It contains a number of unusual insights and concepts proposed by the author and, thus, may be insightful also to experts in quantum chemistry.
In Chapter 2, the phenomenon of acetone-water proton exchange catalyzed by tubular as well as amorphous aggregates of calixhydroquinone (CHQ) macromolecules, which has been observed previously in NMR experiments (Ref. D1D), is investigated by means of correlated quantum-chemical methods. The first part of the study (Section 2.3-2.7) considers concerted proton transfer, assisted by several initially neutral OH-groups in the hydrogen-bonded networks of CHQ aggregates. The second part of the study (Section 2.8-2.13) is dedicated to a second mechanism of proton exchange: step-wise proton transfer via formation of ionic intermediates resulting from CHQ pre-dissociation. CHQ application-specific as well as general conclusions, relevant to the main topic of the Thesis (i.e. influence of specific microsolvation on the considered proton transfer processes), are presented in Section 2.14.
The phenomenon of dual fluorescence observed in clusters of methyl 4-N,N-dimethylaminobenzoate ester (DMABME) and two water molecules in the gas phase, is studied in Chapter 3. Experimentally, the dual fluorescence was detected in experiments combining optical and ground-state ion-depletion infrared spectroscopies in ultracold molecular beams (Ref. D2D). In Section 3.3, calculated ground-state infrared spectra are presented that allow to identify the structures of those isomers, which are present in the gas-phase, as well as the structure of the isomer responsible for dual fluorescence. To further understand the reaction mechanism of dual fluorescence, excited-state potential energy surfaces of the identified isomers were computed along the relevant twisted intermolecular charge-transfer formation coordinate and the mechanism of energy dissipation in these complexes was investigated (Section 3.4-3.5) (Ref. D3D). A brief summary of the main results of this chapter and conclusions are given in Section 3.6. Finally, in Section 3.7 a complementary benchmark study of the quality of ground-state potential energy surfaces of prototypical hydrogen-bonded systems (ammonia-water and formic acid-water dimers) obtained at the level of BSSE-corrected MP2 combined with moderate basis sets, has been conducted. The quality of potential energy surfaces was tested with respect to basis-set size, level of electron correlation and anharmonicity effects and the applied methodology to identify the IR spectrum of hydrated DMABME complexes (Section 3.3) has been found to be sufficient to uniquely assign the IR spectra.
Development of decoration and preferential-etching methods for delineation of crystal defects in semiconductor materials
- Silicon wafers such as Silicon on Insulator (SOI) and strained silicon on Insulator (sSOI) are the essential and basic materials of advanced microelectronic devices. However, they often show various kinds of crystal defects which impair the function of these devices. The most efficient method to date, for detecting such defects and for determining their density, is to delineate them by etching the wafers with a suitable etching solution and characterise them via light optical microscopy. Etch pits are formed at defect sites which are etched at a faster rate than at the perfect lattice. The standard etching solution used for SOI and sSOI is a dilute version of Secco. As Secco contains carcinogenic and environmentally hazardous chromium (VI), the use of which is or will be restricted by law in many countries, suitable chromium (VI)-free etching solutions like Organic Peracid Etches (OPE), modified Chemical Polishing Etches (CP) like CP4 mod and mixtures with organic oxidizing agents like chloranil (CA) have been developed for the successful delineation of various types of crystal defects.
However there are still nanometer-sized defects which are hard to detect or escape detection by this method. Copper decoration is a well known method to magnify these defects. It consists in applying a copper nitrate solution to the back of the SOI or sSOI wafer. On annealing, copper diffuses through the substrate and the BOX (buried oxide) to the SOI/sSOI film and on quenching to room temperature, copper precipitates as copper silicide, SiCu3, foremost at crystal defects where the lattice strain is greater than at perfect lattice sites. These silicides increase the volume in these parts of the crystal lattice and defect magnification occurs. A considerable disadvantage of this method is its tendency for artefact formation, when the copper concentration used is too high, with the copper precipitating at the film surface. The consequence is a higher density of etch pits whereby true defect etch pits cannot be differentiated from those caused by artefacts.
The aim of this thesis is to show that the processes of decorating and etching can be combined successfully to delineate all crystal defects in SOI and sSOI. An ideal result would have been to find a copper decoration procedure that decorates all existing crystal defects at a copper concentration that avoids artefact formation.
Di-μ-bromido-bis-[(diethyl ether-κO)(2,4,6-tri-methyl-phen-yl)magnesium]: the mesityl Grignard reagent
- The crystal structure of the title compound, [Mg2Br2(C9H11)2(C4H10O)2], features a centrosymmetric two-centre magnesium complex with half a mol-ecule in the asymmetric unit. The Mg atom is in a considerably distorted Br2CO coordination. Bond lengths and angles are comparable with already published values. The crystal packing is stabilized by C-H⋯π inter-actions linking the complexes into sheets parallel to (0-11).
EGI user forum 2011 : book of abstracts
WeNMR: the tale of virtual research community in NMR and structural biology
Cell-free expression and molecular modeling of the γ-secretase complex and G-protein-coupled receptors
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which was first reported more than a century ago by Alhzeimer, is one of the commonest forms of dementia which affects >30 million people globally (>8 million in Europe). The origin and pathogenesis of AD is poorly understood and there is no cure available for the disease. AD is characterized by the accumulation of senile plaques composed of amyloid beta peptides (Ab 37-43) which is formed by the gamma secretase (GS) complex by cleaving amyloid precursor protein. Therefore GS can be an attractive drug target. Since GS processes several other substrates like Notch, CD44 and Cadherins, nonspecific inhibition of GS has many side effects. Due to the lack of crystal structure of GS, which is attributed to the extreme difficulties in purifying it, molecular modeling can be useful to understand its architecture. So far only low resolution cryoEM structures of the complex has been solved which only provides a rough structure of the complex at low 12-15 A resolution Furthermore the activity of GS in vitro can be achieved by means of cell-free (CF) expression.
GS comprises catalytic subunits namely presenilins and supporting elements containing Pen-2, Aph-1 and Nicastrin. The origin of AD is hidden in the regulated intramembrnae proteolysis (RIP) which is involved in various physiological processes and also in leukemia. So far growth factors, cytokines, receptors, viral proteins, cell adhesion proteins, signal peptides and GS has been shown to undergo RIP. During RIP, the target proteins undergo extracellular shredding and intramembrane proteolysis.
This thesis is based on molecular modeling, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, cell-free (CF) expression, mass spectrometry, NMR, crystallization, activity assay etc of the components of GS complex and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).
First I validated the NMR structure of PS1 CTF in detergent micelles and lipid bilayers using coarse-grained MD simulations using MARTINI forcefield implemented in Gromacs. CTF was simulated in DPC micelles, DPPC and DLPC lipid bilayer. Starting from random configuration of detergent and lipids, micelle and lipid bilyer were formed respectively in presence of CTF and it was oriented properly to the micelle and bilyer during the simulation. Around DPC molecules formed micelle around CTF in agreement of the experimental results in which 80-85 DPC molecules are required to form micelles. The structure obtained in DPC was similar to that of NMR structure but differed in bilayer simulations showed the possibility of substrate docking in the conserved PAL motif. Simulations of CTF in implicit membrane (IMM1) in CHAMM yielded similar structure to that from coarse grained MD.
I performed cell-free expression optimization, crystallization and NMR spectroscopy of Pen-2 in various detergent micelles. Additionally Pen-2 was modeled by a combination of rosetta membrane ab-initio method, HHPred distant homology modeling and incorporating NMR constraints. The models were validated by all atom and coarse grained MD simulations both in detergent micelles and POPC/DPPC lipid bilayers using MARTINI forcefield.
GS operon consisting of all four subunits was co-expressed in CF and purified. The presence of of GS subunits after pull-down with Aph-1 was determined by western blotting (Pen-2) and mass spectrometry (Presenilin-1 and Aph-1). I also studied interactions of especially PS1 CTF, APP and NTF by docking and MD.
I also made models and interfaces of Pen-2 with PS1 NTF and checked their stability by MD simulations and compared with experimental results. The goal is to model the interfaces between GS subunits using molecular modeling approaches based on available experimental data like cross-linking, mutations and NMR structure of C-terminal fragment of PS1 and transmembrane part of APP. The obtained interfaces of GS subunits may explain its catalysis mechanism which can be exploited for novel lead design. Due to lack of crystal/NMR structure of the GS subunits except the PS1 CTF, it is not possible to predict the effect of mutations in terms of APP cleavage. So I also developed a sequence based approach based on machine learning using support vector machine to predict the effect of PS1 CTF L383 mutations in terms of Aβ40/Aβ42 ratio with 88% accuracy. Mutational data derived from the Molgen database of Presenilin 1 mutations was using for training.
GPCRs (also called 7TM receptors) form a large superfamily of membrane proteins, which can be activated by small molecules, lipids, hormones, peptides, light, pain, taste and smell etc. Although 50% of the drugs in market target GPCRs , only few are targeted therapeutically. Such wide range of targets is due to involvement of GPCRs in signaling pathways related to many diseases i.e. dementia (like Alzheimer's disease), metabolic (like diabetes) including endocrinological disorders, immunological including viral infections, cardiovascular, inflammatory, senses disorders, pain and cancer.
Cannabinoid and adrenergic receptors belong to the class A (similar to rhodopsin) GPCRs. Docking of agonists and antagonists to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors revealed the importance of a centrally located rotamer toggle switch, and its possible role in the mechanism of agonist/antagonist recognition. The switch is composed of two residues, F3.36 and W6.48, located on opposite transmembrane helices TM3 and TM6 in the central part of the membranous domain of cannabinoid receptors. The CB1 and CB2 receptor models were constructed based on the adenosine A2A receptor template. The two best scored conformations of each receptor were used for the docking procedure. In all poses (ligand-receptor conformations) characterized by the lowest ligand-receptor intermolecular energy and free energy of binding the ligand type matched the state of the rotamer toggle switch: antagonists maintained an inactive state of the switch, whereas agonists changed it. In case of agonists of β2AR, the (R,R) and (S,S) stereoisomers of fenoterol, the molecular dynamics simulations provided evidence of different binding modes while preserving the same average position of ligands in the binding site. The (S,S) isomer was much more labile in the binding site and only one stable hydrogen bond was created. Such dynamical binding modes may also be valid for ligands of cannabinoid receptors because of the hydrophobic nature of their ligand-receptor interactions. However, only very long molecular dynamics simulations could verify the validity of such binding modes and how they affect the process of activation.
Human N-formyl peptide receptors (FPRs) are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) involved in many physiological processes, including host defense against bacterial infection and resolving inflammation. The three human FPRs (FPR1, FPR2 and FPR3) share significant sequence homology and perform their action via coupling to Gi protein. Activation of FPRs induces a variety of responses, which are dependent on the agonist, cell type, receptor subtype, and also species involved. FPRs are expressed mainly by phagocytic leukocytes. Together, these receptors bind a large number of structurally diverse groups of agonistic ligands, including N-formyl and nonformyl peptides of different composition, that chemoattract and activate phagocytes. For example, N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLF), an FPR1 agonist, activates human phagocyte inflammatory responses, such as intracellular calcium mobilization, production of cytokines, generation of reactive oxygen species, and chemotaxis. This ligand can efficiently activate the major bactericidal neutrophil functions and it was one of the first characterized bacterial chemotactic peptides. Whereas fMLF is by far the most frequently used chemotactic peptide in studies of neutrophil functions, atomistic descriptions for fMLF-FPR1 binding mode are still scarce mainly because of the absence of a crystal structure of this receptor. Elucidating the binding modes may contribute to designing novel and more efficient non-peptide FPR1 drug candidates. Molecular modeling of FPR1, on the other hand, can provide an efficient way to reveal details of ligand binding and activation of the receptor. However, recent modelings of FPRs were confined only to bovine rhodopsin as a template.
To locate specific ligand-receptor interactions based on a more appropriate template than rhodopsin we generated the homology models of FPR1 using the crystal structure of the chemokine receptor CXCR4, which shares over 30% sequence identity with FPR1 and is located in the same γ branch of phylogenetic tree of GPCRs (rhodopsin is located in α branch). Docking and model refinement procedures were pursued afterward. Finally, 40 ns full-atom MD simulations were conducted for the Apo form as well as for complexes of fMLF (agonist) and tBocMLF (antagonist) with FPR1 in the membrane. Based on locations of the N- and C-termini of the ligand the FPR1 extracellular pocket can be divided into two zones, namely, the anchor and activation regions. The formylated M1 residue of fMLF bound to the activation region led to a series of conformational changes of conserved residues. Internal water molecules participating in extended hydrogen bond networks were found to play a crucial role in transmitting the agonist-receptor interactions. A mechanism of initial steps of the activation concurrent with ligand binding is proposed.
I accurately predicted the structure and ligand binding pose of dopamine receptor 3 (RMSD to the crystal structure: 2.13 Å) and chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4, RMSD to the crystal structure 3.21 Å) in GPCR-Dock 2010 competition. The homology model of the dopamine receptor 3 was 8 th best overall in the competition.
Function of plant photosystem II subunits in photoprotection
- Plants absorb sunlight via photosynthetic pigments and convert light energy intochemical energy in the process of photosynthesis. These pigments are mainly bound to antenna protein complexes that funnel the excitation energy to the photosynthetic reaction centres. The peripheral antenna of plant photosystem II (PSII) consists of the major light-harvesting complex of PSII (LHC-II) and the minor LHCs CP29, CP26 and CP24. Light intensity can change frequently and plants need to adapt to high-light conditions in order to avoid photodamage. When more photons are absorbed than can be utilised by the photosynthetic machinery, excessive excitation energy is dissipated as heat by short-term adaptation processes collectively known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A decrease in PSII antenna chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence yield and a reduction in the average Chl fluorescence lifetime are associated with NPQ. The main component of NPQ is the so-called energy-dependent quenching (qE), and it is triggered by the rapid drop in thylakoid lumenal pH resulting from the plant’s photosynthetic activity. This process is thought to take place at the PSII antenna complexes, which therefore not only capture and transfer light energy but are also involved in balancing the energy flow. The decrease in lumenal pH acivates the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE), which converts the xanthophyll violaxanthin (Vio) into zeaxanthin (Zea) in the xanthophyll cycle. In addition, the PSII subunit PsbS was discovered to be essential for qE by screening qE-deficient Arabidopsis thaliana mutants. This membrane protein is considered a member of the LHC superfamily, which also includes LHC-II and the minor LHCs. Previous studies on PsbS isolated either from native source or refolded in vitro have produced inconsistent results on its pigment binding capacity. Interestingly, a pH-dependent change in the quaternary structure of PsbS under high light conditions has been reported. This observed dimer-tomonomer transition very likely follows the protonation of lumenal glutamates upon the drop in pH and is accompanied by a change in PSII supercomplex localisation. PsbS dimers are preferentially found in association with the PSII core, whereas PsbS monomers co-localise with LHC-II.Despite the identification of !pH, Zea and PsbS as key players in qE, both the nature of the quencher(s) as well as the underlying molecular mechanism leading to excess energy dissipation still remain unknown. Several models have been put forward to explain the reversible switch in the antenna from an energy-transmitting to a quenched state. Proposals include a simple pigment exchange of Vio for Zea, and aggregation or an internal conformational change of LHC-II. Charge transfer (CT)quenching in the minor LHCs or quenching by carotenoid dark state (Car S1)-Chl interactions have also been suggested. However, none of these qE models has so far been capable of accommodating all the physiological observations and available experimental data. Most importantly, the function of PsbS remains an enigma. A recent qE model suggested that monomerisation of PsbS enables the protein to transiently bind a carotenoid and form a quenching unit with a Chl of a PSII LHC. In view of the various proposed qE mechanisms, this thesis aimed at understanding the interplay of the different qE components and the contribution of the PSII subunits LHC-II, the minor LHCs and PsbS to qE. The initial approach was to investigate the properties of the PSII subunits in the most simple in vitro model system, namely in detergent solution. For this purpose, LHC-II was isolated either from native source or refolded from recombinantly produced protein. Investigation of the minor LHCs and PsbS required heterologous expression and refolding. In addition, experiments were performed on aggregated LHC-II. Aggregates of LHC-II have been used as a popular model system for qE because they exhibit highly quenched Chl fluorescence. At the final stage of this doctoral work, a more sophisticated model system to approximate the thylakoid membrane was developed by reconstitution of the PSII subunits LHC-II and PsbS into liposomes. This system not only allowed for investigation of these membrane proteins in their native environment, but also for mimicking the xanthophyll cycle by distribution of Zea within the membrane as well as !pH by outside buffer exchange. The role of Zea in qE was first investigated with detergent solubilised antenna proteins. The requirement of this xanthophyll for qE is well-known, but the specific contribution to the molecular quenching mechansim is unclear. Previous work had shown that replacement of Vio for Zea in LHC-II was not sufficient to induce Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II, as suggested by the so-called molecular gearshift mechanism. However, by means of selective two-photon excitation spectroscopy, an increase in electronic interactions between Car S1 and Chls was observed for LHC-II upon lowering the pH of the detergent buffer. Electronic Car S1-Chl coupling became even stronger when Zea-LHC-II was probed. The extent of Car S1-Chl coupling correlated directly with the extent of Chl fluorescence quenching, in a similar way as observed previously in live plants under high-light conditions. However, very similar results were obtained with LHC-II aggregates. This implied that the increase in electronic interactions and fluorescence quenching was independent of Zea and low pH. Further experiments on aggregates of LHC-II Chl mutants indicated that the targeted pigments were also not essential for the observed effects. It is proposed that the same molecular mechanism causes an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions and Chl fluorescence quenching in Zea-LHC-II at low pH as well as in aggregated LHC-II. Most likely, surface exposed pigments form random quenching centres in both cases. On the other hand, it was possible that Zea could act as a direct quencher of excess excitation energy in the minor LHCs. However, enrichment of refolded CP29, CP26 and CP24 with Zea did not lead to a change in the Chl excited state lifetime. Formation of a carotenoid radical cation, previously implied in CT quenching, was also not observed, although artificial generation of such a radical cation was principally possible as shown for CP29. During the course of this work, a study reporting the formation of Zea radical cations in minor LHCs was published. Therefore, Zea-enriched minor LHCs were again investigated on the experimental apparatus used in the reported study. Indeed, the presence of at least one carotenoid radical cation for each minor complex was detected. It is suggested that either the preparation method of incubating the refolded minor LHCs with Zea in contrast to refolding the complexes with only Zea and lutein causes the observed differences or that the observed spectral radical cation signatures are due to experimental artifacts. While the experiments with LHC-II and the minor LHCs gave useful insights into the putative qE mechanism, the quencher site and the mode of action of Zea could still not be unambiguously identified. Most importantly, these studies could not explain the function of the qE keyplayer PsbS. Therefore, the focus of the work was shifted to PsbS protein production, purification and characterisation. In view of inconsistent reports on the pigment binding capacity of this PSII subunit, refolding trials with and without photosynthetic pigments were conducted. The formation of a specific pigmentprotein complex typical for other LHCs was not observed and neither was the earlier reported “activation” of Zea for qE by binding to this protein. Nevertheless, PsbS refolded without pigments displayed secondary structure content in agreement with previous studies, indicating pigment-independent folding. Reconstitution of pigmentfree, refolded PsbS into liposomes confirmed that the protein is stable in the absence of pigments. Zea distributed in PsbS-containing liposomes also showed no spectral alteration that would indicate its “activation”. With the ability to reconstitute PsbS, it was then possible to proceed to modelling qE in a proteoliposome system. For this purpose, PsbS was co-reconstituted with LHC-II, which has been reported to interact with PsbS. One-photon excitation (OPE) and two-photon excitation (TPE) spectroscopy measurements were performed on LHC-II- and LHC-II/PsbS-containing liposomes. This enabled both quantification of Chl fluorescence quenching as well as determination of the extent of electronic Car S1-Chl interactions. The effect of Zea was investigated by incorporating it in the proteoliposome membrane. It was shown that Zea alone was not able to induce significant Chl fluorescence quenching when only LHC-II was present. However, when LHC-II and PsbS were co-reconstituted, pronounced Chl fluorescence quenching and an increase in electronic Car S1-Chl interactions were observed and both effects were enhanced when Zea was present. Western blot analysis indicated the presence of a LHC-II/PsbS-heterodimer in these proteoliposomes. In addition to the OPE and TPE measurements, the average Chl fluorescence lifetime was determined in detergent-free buffer at neutral pH and directly after buffer exchange to low pH. No significant changes in the average lifetime were observed for LHC-II proteoliposomes when either Zea was present or after exchange for low pH buffer. This indicated that Zea alone cannot act as a direct quencher, which concurs with the OPE measurements. Moreover, the complex was also properly reconstituted as no aggregation or significant Chl fluorescence quenching were observed. The average lifetime was not significantly affected in LHC-II/PsbS-proteoliposomes, independent of Zea or pH. However, a shortlived component in the presence of a long-lived component was not resolvable with the time resolution of the fluorescence lifetime apparatus.
Implications for qE model systems and the in vivo quenching mechanism are discussed based on the experiments in detergent solution, on LHC-II aggregates and with the proteoliposome model system.
Structural and functional studies of argonaute and tomato aspermy virus protein 2B, a suppressor of RNAi
Umar Jan Rashid
- RNA interference (RNAi) is triggered by recognition of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), and elicits the silencing of gene(s) complementary to the dsRNA sequence. RNAi is thought to have emerged as a way of safeguarding the genome against mobile genetic elements and viral infection, thus maintaining genomic integrity. dsRNA is first processed into small interfering RNAs (siRNA) by the enzyme Dicer. siRNAs are ~21 to 25 -nt long, and contain a signature 5’ phosphate group and a two nucleotide long 3’ overhang (Bernstein et al., 2001). The siRNA is then loaded into the RNA-induced si-lencing complex (RISC), of which Argonaute is the primary catalytic component (Liu et al., 2004). Energetic asymmetry of the siRNA ends allows for its directional loading into RISC (Khvorova et al., 2003; Schwarz et al., 2003). Argonaute cleaves the passen-ger strand of the siRNA, leaving the guide strand of the siRNA bound to RISC (Gregory et al., 2005; Matranga et al., 2005; Rand et al., 2005). This single-stranded guide strand siRNA bound to Argonaute is able to recognize target mRNA in a sequence-specific manner, and cleaves the mRNA. Argonaute 2 in complex with single-stranded siRNA is sufficient for mRNA recognition and cleavage, thus forming a minimal RISC (Rivas et al., 2005). miRNAs, endogenously expressed small RNA genes which typically contain mismatches and non-Watson-Crick base pairing, are processed by this general pathway, although typically modulate gene expression by translational repression as opposed to cleavage of their target mRNA. The number of Argonaute genes is highly variable between species, ranging from one in S. pombe to twenty-seven in C. elegans. Earlier crystal structures of Argonaute apoen-zymes show the architecture of Argonaute to be a multidomain protein composed of N terminal, PAZ, MID, and PIWI domains (Song et al., 2004; Yuan et al., 2005). These multi-domain proteins are present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The role of Argonaute proteins in prokaryotes is still unknown, but based similarity to eu-karyotic Argonautes, they may also be involved in nucleic acid-directed regulatory pathways. These proteins have served as excellent models for learning about the struc-ture and function of this family of proteins. RNAi has found a widespread application for the simple yet effective knockdown of genes of interest. The catalytic cycle of RISC requires the binding of a number of different nucleotide structures to Argonaute, and we expect Argonaute to undergo a number of conforma-tional changes during the cycle of mRNA recognition by RISC (Filipowicz, 2005; Tom-ari and Zamore, 2005). Nevertheless, it remains unclear how the multi-domain ar-rangement of Argonaute recognizes and distinguishes between single-stranded and dou-ble-stranded oligonucleotides, which correspond to the Dicer-processed siRNA product, guide strand siRNA, and the guide strand / mRNA duplex. The Argonaute protein from Aquifex aeolicus was cloned, expressed, crystallized and solved by molecular replacement. Relative to earlier Argonaute structures, a 24° reorientation of the PAZ domain in this structure opens a basic cleft between the N-terminal and PAZ domains, exposing the guide strand binding pocket of PAZ. A 5.5-ns molecular dynamics simulation of Argonaute showed a strong tendency of the PAZ and N-terminal domains to be mobile. Binding of single-stranded DNA to Argonaute was monitored by total internal reflection fluorescence spectroscopy (TIRFS). The experi-ments showed biphasic kinetics indicative of large conformational changes, and re-vealed a hotspot of binding energy corresponding to the first 9 nucleotides, the so-called “seed region” most crucial for sequence-specific target recognition. As RNAi may have evolved as a way of safeguarding the genome viral infection, it is not surprising that viruses have evolved different strategies to suppress the host RNAi response in the form of viral suppressor protein. (Hock and Meister, 2008; Lecellier and Voinnet, 2004; Rashid et al., 2007; Song et al., 2004; Vastenhouw and Plasterk, 2004). These viral suppressors are widespread, having been identified in a number of different viral families. Not surprisingly, they generally share little sequence homology with one another, although they appear to exist as oligomers built upon a ~ 100-200 amino acid protomer. Tomato aspermy virus, a member of the Cucumoviruses, encodes for protein 2B (TAV 2B, 95 a.a., ~11.3 kDa) that acts as an RNAi suppressor. Intriguingly, a similar genomic arrangement is seen in RNAi suppressors in the Nodaviruses, a family of viruses that can infect both plants and animals, such as Flock house virus b2 (FHV b2). The 2B and b2 proteins are both derived from a frameshifted ORF within the RNA polymerase gene (Chao et al., 2005). In spite of this genomic similarity, the 2B and b2 proteins share little sequence identity, and it is not well understood how the Cucumovirus 2B proteins suppress RNAi. To address how TAV 2B suppresses RNAi, the oligonucleotide-binding properties of TAV 2B were studied. TAV 2B shows a preference for double-stranded RNA oligonucleotides corresponding to siRNAs and miRNAs, and also binds to single-stranded RNA oligonucleotides. A stretch of positively charged residues between amino acids 20-30 are critical for RNA binding. Binding to RNA oligomerizes and induces a conformational change in TAV 2B into a primarily helical structure. These studies sug-gest that suppression of RNAi by TAV 2B may occur by targeting different stages of the RNAi pathway. TAV 2B falls under the category of more general RNAi suppres-sors, with potentially multiple targets for suppression.
Substrate-dependent effects on the conformational equilibrium of the Na +, K +-ATPase monitored by VCF
- The Na+,K+-ATPase was discovered more than 50 years ago, but even today the pumpcycle and its partial reactions are still not completely understood. In this thesis, Voltage Clamp Fluorometry was used to monitor the conformational changes that are associated with several electrogenic partial reactions of the Na+,K+-ATPase. The conformational dynamics of the ion pump were analyzed at different concentrations of internal Na+ or of external K+ and the influences on the conformational equilibrium were determined. To probe the effect of the internal Na+ concentration on the Na+ branch of the ion pump, oocytes were first depleted of internal Na+ and then loaded with Na+ using the epithelial sodium channel which can be blocked by amiloride. The conformational dynamics of the K+ branch were studied using different external K+ concentrations in the presence and in the absence of external Na+ to yield additional information on the apparent affinity of K+. The results of our Voltage Clamp Fluorometry experiments demonstrate that lowering the intracellular concentration of Na+ has a comparable effect on the conformational equilibrium as increasing the amount of K+ in the external solution. Both of these changes shift the equilibrium towards the E1/E1(P) conformation. Furthermore, it can be shown that the ratio between external Na+ and K+ ions is also a determinant for the position of the conformational equilibrium: in the absence of external Na+, the K+ dependent shift of the equilibrium towards E1 was observed at a much lower K+ concentration than in the presence of Na+. In addition, indications were found that both external K+ and internal Na+ bind within an ion well. Finally, the crucial role of negatively charged glutamate residues in the 2nd extracellular loop for the control of ion-access to the binding sites could be verified.
Time-resolved and static NMR characterization of the structure and folding kinetics of the Diels-Alder ribozyme
- Despite the well-known importance of ribonucleic acids (RNA) in cell biology, it is astounding to realize the pace at which new fundamental functions of RNAs have been discovered. One of the fundamental reasons for the multitude of functions of RNA is the property of RNA to adopt different conformations or folds. The primary sequence of RNA, a linear polymer built from four different repetition units, can fold into alternate secondary structure motifs which in turn form alternate long-range interactions in complex tertiary structures. Ligands such as metal ions or small molecular weight metabolites and also proteins or peptides can bind to RNA and induce the changes in tertiary conformation. For example, in the cell, RNA participates in gene regulation in the form of riboswitches. Riboswitches are found in untranslated regions of messenger RNA (mRNA) and adopt alternate conformations depending on the presence or absence of specific metabolites. If a metabolite is present above a specific concentration, it induces a conformational change in the respective riboswitch by binding and thereby alters gene expression. Another example is the RNA thermometer which participates in the cell translational mechanism by a similar strategy. Translation initiation requires the binding of RNA thermometers to the ribosome. The ribosome binding region is located in the 5’ untranslated region of mRNA. At low temperatures this region is prevented from binding to the ribosome by forming basepairs. At higher temperatures, these basepairs dissociate allowing ribosome binding and subsequent translation. Therefore, the characterization and delineation of the kinetics and pathway of RNA folding is important to understand the function of RNA and is an important contribution to fundamentally understand RNA’s role in the cell. RNA conformational transitions occur over a wide range of timescales. Depending on the timescale, various biophysical techniques are used to study RNA conformational transitions. In these biophysical studies, achieving good structural and temporal resolution constitute frequently encountered challenges or limitations. For example, single molecule FRET spectroscopy provides high temporal resolution in the milliseconds at high sensitivity but lacks atomic resolution. Recent advances in the field of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy have enabled the elucidation of tertiary folding events to be characterized with atomic resolution. This thesis involves the use of NMR spectroscopy to characterize the folding of RNA molecules. Kinetics experiments require rapid initiation of the kinetics followed by monitoring of the reaction. In this thesis, two different folding initiation techniques have been applied and coupled to the subsequent detection of RNA folding using NMR spectroscopy, namely, photocaging and rapid mixing. The method of photocaging is well established (Kuhn and Schwalbe, 2000) and builds on the following principle: A photolabile moiety is attached to a molecule that prevents a specific interaction. Upon irradiation of the molecule with the photolabile group using laser light at a specific wave length, at which the molecule of interest is not absorbing, the protecting group is released. In our group, together with the group of S. Pitsch, ETH Lausanne, we could "cage" RNA at its equilibrium state by a photolabile molecule (similar work has been carried out in the group of A. Heckel). Rapid and traceless release of the photolabile precursor compound by a laser pulse releases the RNA to fold into its native state; the build-up of the native state of the RNA is monitored by NMR signals that are uniquely characteristic for the native state of the RNA. By optically coupling a laser source to an NMR magnet, the above procedure can take place in situ and the kinetics recorded by NMR. Several different molecules can be caged: The photocage can be attached to RNA. Then, a modified photolabile nucleotide can be placed at strategic positions of a target RNA whose folding properties is to be studied. The photocage can also be attached to a ligand: if folding is dependent on ligand binding then the ligand can be modified to carry a photosensitive unit whose degradation allows binding to RNA. In this thesis, an alternative method for photocaging is introduced. Here, metal ions essential for folding of the RNA are photocaged using the photolabile chelating agent Dimethyl-nitrophen (DMN). Photolysis of DMNr releases the metal ion, thereby RNA folding is initiated. In the rapid-mixing technique, one of (several) components required for proper folding of the RNA is rapidly injected into an NMR sample in situ by the use of a pneumatic injection device. ...