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Concept: Proteins


Tardigrades are able to tolerate almost complete dehydration by reversibly switching to an ametabolic state. This ability is called anhydrobiosis. In the anhydrobiotic state, tardigrades can withstand various extreme environments including space, but their molecular basis remains largely unknown. Late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins are heat-soluble proteins and can prevent protein-aggregation in dehydrated conditions in other anhydrobiotic organisms, but their relevance to tardigrade anhydrobiosis is not clarified. In this study, we focused on the heat-soluble property characteristic of LEA proteins and conducted heat-soluble proteomics using an anhydrobiotic tardigrade. Our heat-soluble proteomics identified five abundant heat-soluble proteins. All of them showed no sequence similarity with LEA proteins and formed two novel protein families with distinct subcellular localizations. We named them Cytoplasmic Abundant Heat Soluble (CAHS) and Secretory Abundant Heat Soluble (SAHS) protein families, according to their localization. Both protein families were conserved among tardigrades, but not found in other phyla. Although CAHS protein was intrinsically unstructured and SAHS protein was rich in β-structure in the hydrated condition, proteins in both families changed their conformation to an α-helical structure in water-deficient conditions as LEA proteins do. Two conserved repeats of 19-mer motifs in CAHS proteins were capable to form amphiphilic stripes in α-helices, suggesting their roles as molecular shield in water-deficient condition, though charge distribution pattern in α-helices were different between CAHS and LEA proteins. Tardigrades might have evolved novel protein families with a heat-soluble property and this study revealed a novel repertoire of major heat-soluble proteins in these anhydrobiotic animals.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Cell, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Tardigrade, Cryptobiosis


How small heat shock proteins (sHsps) might empower proteostasis networks to control beneficial prions or disassemble pathological amyloid is unknown. Here, we establish that yeast sHsps, Hsp26 and Hsp42, inhibit prionogenesis by the [PSI+] prion protein, Sup35, via distinct and synergistic mechanisms. Hsp42 prevents conformational rearrangements within molten oligomers that enable de novo prionogenesis and collaborates with Hsp70 to attenuate self-templating. By contrast, Hsp26 inhibits self-templating upon binding assembled prions. sHsp binding destabilizes Sup35 prions and promotes their disaggregation by Hsp104, Hsp70, and Hsp40. In yeast, Hsp26 or Hsp42 overexpression prevents [PSI+] induction, cures [PSI+], and potentiates [PSI+]-curing by Hsp104 overexpression. In vitro, sHsps enhance Hsp104-catalyzed disaggregation of pathological amyloid forms of α-synuclein and polyglutamine. Unexpectedly, in the absence of Hsp104, sHsps promote an unprecedented, gradual depolymerization of Sup35 prions by Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. This unanticipated amyloid-depolymerase activity is conserved from yeast to humans, which lack Hsp104 orthologues. A human sHsp, HspB5, stimulates depolymerization of α-synuclein amyloid by human Hsp110, Hsp70, and Hsp40. Thus, we elucidate a heretofore-unrecognized human amyloid-depolymerase system that could have applications in various neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Cell, Protein folding, Prion, Amyloid, Heat shock protein, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy


Mucins are the main components of the gastrointestinal mucus layer. Mucin glycosylation is critical to most intermolecular and intercellular interactions. However, due to the highly complex and heterogeneous mucin glycan structures, the encoded biological information remains largely encrypted. Here we have developed a methodology based on force spectroscopy to identify biologically accessible glycoepitopes in purified porcine gastric mucin (pPGM) and purified porcine jejunal mucin (pPJM). The binding specificity of lectins Ricinus communis agglutinin I (RCA), peanut (Arachis hypogaea) agglutinin (PNA), Maackia amurensis lectin II (MALII), and Ulex europaeus agglutinin I (UEA) was utilized in force spectroscopy measurements to quantify the affinity and spatial distribution of their cognate sugars at the molecular scale. Binding energy of 4, 1.6, and 26 aJ was determined on pPGM for RCA, PNA, and UEA. Binding was abolished by competition with free ligands, demonstrating the validity of the affinity data. The distributions of the nearest binding site separations estimated the number of binding sites in a 200-nm mucin segment to be 4 for RCA, PNA, and UEA, and 1.8 for MALII. Binding site separations were affected by partial defucosylation of pPGM. Furthermore, we showed that this new approach can resolve differences between gastric and jejunum mucins.-Gunning, A. P., Kirby, A. R., Fuell, C., Pin, C., Tailford L. E., Juge, N. Mining the “glycocode”-exploring the spatial distribution of glycans in gastrointestinal mucin using force spectroscopy.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Mass, Ricin, Peanut, Faboideae, Glycomics, Ulex europaeus


Aberrant signaling through the class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt axis is frequent in human cancer. Here, we show that Beclin 1, an essential autophagy and tumor suppressor protein, is a target of the protein kinase Akt. Expression of a Beclin 1 mutant resistant to Akt-mediated phosphorylation increased autophagy, reduced anchorage-independent growth, and inhibited Akt-driven tumorigenesis. Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 enhanced its interactions with 14-3-3 and vimentin intermediate filament proteins, and vimentin depletion increased autophagy and inhibited Akt-driven transformation. Thus, Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 functions in autophagy inhibition, oncogenesis, and the formation of an autophagy-inhibitory Beclin 1/14-3-3/vimentin intermediate filament complex. These findings have broad implications for understanding the role of Akt signaling and intermediate filament proteins in autophagy and cancer.

Concepts: Proteins, Cancer, Oncology, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Cytoskeleton, Tumor suppressor gene, AKT


Comparison of the binding sites of proteins is an effective means for predicting protein functions based on their structure information. Despite the importance of this problem and much research in the past, it is still very challenging to predict the binding ligands from the atomic structures of protein binding sites. Here, we designed a new algorithm, TIPSA (Triangulation-based Iterative-closest-point for Protein Surface Alignment), based on the iterative closest point (ICP) algorithm. TIPSA aims to find the maximum number of atoms that can be superposed between two protein binding sites, where any pair of superposed atoms has a distance smaller than a given threshold. The search starts from similar tetrahedra between two binding sites obtained from 3D Delaunay triangulation and uses the Hungarian algorithm to find additional matched atoms. We found that, due to the plasticity of protein binding sites, matching the rigid body of point clouds of protein binding sites is not adequate for satisfactory binding ligand prediction. We further incorporated global geometric information, the radius of gyration of binding site atoms, and used nearest neighbor classification for binding site prediction. Tested on benchmark data, our method achieved a performance comparable to the best methods in the literature, while simultaneously providing the common atom set and atom correspondences.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Prediction, Futurology, Atom, Binding site, Delaunay triangulation


Adiponectin is an adipose derived hormone that declines in obesity. We have previously shown that exogenous administration of adiponectin reduces allergic airways responses in mice. T-cadherin (T-cad; Cdh13) is a binding protein for the high molecular weight isoforms of adiponectin. To determine whether the beneficial effects of adiponectin on allergic airways responses require T-cad, we sensitized wildtype (WT), T-cadherin deficient (T-cad(-/-)) and adiponectin and T-cad bideficient mice to ovalbumin (OVA) and challenged the mice with aerosolized OVA or PBS. Compared to WT, T-cad(-/-) mice were protected against OVA-induced airway hyperresponsiveness, increases in BAL inflammatory cells, and induction of IL-13, IL-17, and eotaxin expression. Histological analysis of the lungs of OVA-challenged T-cad(-/-) versus WT mice indicated reduced inflammation around the airways, and reduced mucous cell hyperplasia. Combined adiponectin and T-cad deficiency reversed the effects of T-cad deficiency alone, indicating that the observed effects of T-cad deficiency require adiponectin. Compared to WT, serum adiponectin was markedly increased in T-cad(-/-) mice, likely because adiponectin that is normally sequestered by endothelial T-cad remains free in the circulation. In conclusion, T-cad does not mediate the protective effects of adiponectin. Instead, mice lacking T-cad have reduced allergic airways disease, likely because elevated serum adiponectin levels act on other adiponectin signaling pathways.

Concepts: Inflammation, Proteins, Protein, Gene, Asthma, Obesity, Cadherin, T-cadherin


Cullin E3 ligases are the largest family of ubiquitin ligases with diverse cellular functions. One of seven cullin proteins serves as a scaffold protein for the assembly of the multisubunit ubiquitin ligase complex. Cullin binds the RING domain protein Rbx1/Rbx2 via its C-terminus and a cullin-specific substrate adaptor protein via its N-terminus. In the Cul3 ubiquitin ligase complex, Cul3 substrate receptors contain a BTB/POZ domain. Several studies have established that Cul3-based E3 ubiquitin ligases exist in a dimeric state which is required for binding of a number of substrates and has been suggested to promote ubiquitin transfer. In two different models, Cul3 has been proposed to dimerize either via BTB/POZ domain dependent substrate receptor homodimerization or via direct interaction between two Cul3 proteins that is mediated by Nedd8 modification of one of the dimerization partners. In this study, we show that the majority of the Cul3 proteins in cells exist as dimers or multimers and that Cul3 self-association is mediated via the Cul3 N-terminus while the Cul3 C-terminus is not required. Furthermore, we show that Cul3 self-association is independent of its modification with Nedd8. Our results provide evidence for BTB substrate receptor dependent Cul3 dimerization which is likely to play an important role in promoting substrate ubiquitination.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Enzyme, Dimer, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, SCF complex, RING finger domain


BACKGROUND: Allostery is one of the most powerful and common ways of regulation of protein activity. However,for most allosteric proteins identified to date the mechanistic details of allosteric modulation are notyet well understood. Uncovering common mechanistic patterns underlying allostery would allow notonly a better academic understanding of the phenomena, but it would also streamline the design ofnovel therapeutic solutions. This relatively unexplored therapeutic potential and the putativeadvantages of allosteric drugs over classical active-site inhibitors fuel the attention allosteric-drugresearch is receiving at present. A first step to harness the regulatory potential and versatility ofallosteric sites, in the context of drug-discovery and design, would be to detect or predict theirpresence and location. In this article, we describe a simple computational approach, based on theeffect allosteric ligands exert on protein flexibility upon binding, to predict the existence and positionof allosteric sites on a given protein structure. RESULTS: By querying the literature and a recently available database of allosteric sites, we gathered 213allosteric proteins with structural information that we further filtered into a non-redundant set of 91proteins. We performed normal-mode analysis and observed significant changes in protein flexibilityupon allosteric-ligand binding in 70% of the cases. These results agree with the current view thatallosteric mechanisms are in many cases governed by changes in protein dynamics caused by ligandbinding. Furthermore, we implemented an approach that achieves 65% positive predictive value inidentifying allosteric sites within the set of predicted cavities of a protein (stricter parameters set,0.22 sensitivity), by combining the current analysis on dynamics with previous results on structuralconservation of allosteric sites. We also analyzed four biological examples in detail, revealing thatthis simple coarse-grained methodology is able to capture the effects triggered by allosteric ligandsalready described in the literature. CONCLUSIONS: We introduce a simple computational approach to predict the presence and position of allosteric sitesin a protein based on the analysis of changes in protein normal modes upon the binding of acoarse-grained ligand at predicted cavities. Its performance has been demonstrated using a newlycurated non-redundant set of 91 proteins with reported allosteric properties. The software developedin this work is available upon request from the authors.

Concepts: Enzyme kinetics, Hemoglobin, Allosteric regulation, Proteins, Scientific method, Protein, Protein structure


Insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) is a major embryonic growth factor belonging to the insulin-like growth factor family which includes insulin and IGF-I. Its expression in humans is tightly controlled by maternal imprinting, a genetic restraint which is lost in many cancers, resulting in upregulation of both mature IGF-II mRNA and protein expression. Additionally, increased expression of several longer isoforms of IGF-II, termed pro- and big-IGF-II, has been observed. To date, it is ambiguous as to what role these IGF-II isoforms have in initiating and sustaining tumorigenesis and whether they are bioavailable. We have expressed each individual IGF-II isoform in their proper O-glycosylated format and established that all bind to the IGF-IR, IR-A and IR-B receptors, resulting in their activation and subsequent stimulation of fibroblast proliferation. We also confirmed that all isoforms are able to be sequestered into binary complex with several IGF binding proteins (IGFBP-2, IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-5). In contrast to this, ternary complex formation with IGFBP-3/IGFBP-5 and the auxillary protein, acid labile subunit (ALS) was severely diminished. Furthermore, big-IGF-II isoforms bound much more weakly to purified ectodomain of the natural IGF-II scavenging receptor, IGF-IIR. IGF-II isoforms thus possess unique biological properties which may enable them to escape normal sequestration avenues and remain bioavailable in vivo in order to sustain oncogenic signaling.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Molecular biology, Signal transduction, Hormone, Insulin-like growth factor 1, IGFBP3


The role of protein-lipid interactions is increasingly recognized to be of importance in numerous biological processes. Bioinformatics is being increasingly used as a helpful tool in studying protein-lipid interactions. Especially recently developed approaches recognizing lipid binding regions in proteins can be implemented. In this study one of those bioinformatics approaches specialized in identifying lipid binding helical regions in proteins is expanded. The approach is explored further by features which can be easily obtained manually. Some interesting examples of members of the amphitropic protein family have been investigated in order to demonstrate the additional features of this bioinformatics approach. The results in this study seem to indicate interesting characteristics of amphitropic proteins and provide insight into the mechanistic functioning and overall understanding of this intriguing class of proteins. Additionally, the results demonstrate that the presented bioinformatics approach might be either an interesting starting point in protein-lipid interactions studies or a good tool for selecting new focus points for more detailed experimental research of proteins with known overall protein-lipid binding abilities.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Metabolism, Proteome, Cdx protein family