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Journal: Biochimica et biophysica acta


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) agonists are clinically used to counteract hyperglycemia. However, so far experienced unwanted side effects, such as weight gain, promote the search for new PPARγ activators.

Concepts: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor


Life arose in a world without oxygen and the first organisms were anaerobes. Here we investigate the gene repertoire of the prokaryote common ancestor, estimating which genes it contained and to which lineages of modern prokaryotes it was most similar in terms of gene content. Using a phylogenetic approach we found that among trees for all 8779 protein families shared between 134 archaea and 1847 bacterial genomes, only 1045 have sequences from at least two bacterial and two archaeal groups and retain the ancestral archaeal-bacterial split. Among those, the genes shared by anaerobes were identified as candidate genes for the prokaryote common ancestor, which lived in anaerobic environments. We find that these anaerobic prokaryote common ancestor genes are today most frequently distributed among methanogens and clostridia, strict anaerobes that live from low free energy changes near the thermodynamic limit of life. The anaerobic families encompass genes for bifunctional acetyl-CoA-synthase/CO-dehydrogenase, heterodisulfide reductase subunits C and A, ferredoxins, and several subunits of the Mrp-antiporter/hydrogenase family, in addition to numerous S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) dependent methyltransferases. The data indicate a major role for methyl groups in the metabolism of the prokaryote common ancestor. The data furthermore indicate that the prokaryote ancestor possessed a rotor stator ATP synthase, but lacked cytochromes and quinones as well as identifiable redox-dependent ion pumping complexes. The prokaryote ancestor did possess, however, an Mrp-type H(+)/Na(+) antiporter complex, capable of transducing geochemical pH gradients into biologically more stable Na(+)-gradients. The findings implicate a hydrothermal, autotrophic, and methyl-dependent origin of life. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘EBEC 2016: 19th European Bioenergetics Conference, Riva del Garda, Italy, July 2-6, 2016’, edited by Prof. Paolo Bernardi.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Life, Genome, Ribosome


The free radical theory of aging is almost 60 years old. As mitochondria are the principle source of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), this hypothesis suggested a central role for the mitochondrion in normal mammalian aging. In recent years however much work has questioned the importance of mitochondrial ROS in driving aging. Conversely new evidence points to other facets of mitochondrial dysfunction which may nevertheless suggest the mitochondrion retains a critical role at the center of a complex web of processes leading to cellular and organismal aging.

Concepts: DNA, Oxygen, Senescence, Mitochondrion, Oxidative stress, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Free-radical theory


Data processing, management and visualization are central and critical components of a state of the art high-throughput mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics experiment, and are often some of the most time-consuming steps, especially for labs without much bioinformatics support. The growing interest in the field of proteomics has triggered an increase in the development of new software libraries, including freely available and open-source software. From database search analysis to post-processing of the identifications results, even though the objectives of these libraries and packages can vary significantly, they usually share a number of features. Common use cases include the handling of protein and peptide sequences, the parsing of results from various proteomics search engines output files, and the visualization of MS-related information (including mass spectra and chromatograms). In this review, we provide an overview of the existing software libraries, open-source frameworks and also, we give information on some of the freely available applications which make use of them. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Computational Proteomics in the Post-Identification Era.

Concepts: Protein, Bioinformatics, Mass spectrometry, Peptide, Open source, Free software, Open content, Arduino


Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is the major membrane-forming phospholipid in eukaryotes and is estimated to be present in about 15% of the domain Bacteria. Usually, PC can be synthesized in bacteria by either of two pathways, the phospholipid N-methylation (Pmt) pathway or the phosphatidylcholine synthase (Pcs) pathway. The three subsequent enzymatic methylations of phosphatidylethanolamine are performed by a single phospholipid N-methyltransferase in some bacteria whereas other bacteria possess multiple phospholipid N-methyltransferases each one performing one or several distinct methylation steps. Phosphatidylcholine synthase condenses choline directly with CDP-diacylglycerol to form CMP and PC. Like in eukaryotes, bacterial PC also functions as a biosynthetic intermediate during the formation of other biomolecules such as choline, diacylglycerol, or diacylglycerol-based phosphorus-free membrane lipids. Bacterial PC may serve as a specific recognition molecule but it affects the physicochemical properties of bacterial membranes as well. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Phospholipids and Phospholipid Metabolism.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Amino acid, Metabolism, Organism, Cell membrane, Phosphatidylcholine, Lecithin


Diatoms are major contributors to the photosynthetic productivity of marine phytoplankton. In these organisms, fucoxanthin-chlorophyll proteins (FCPs) serve as light-harvesting proteins. We have explored the FCP complexes in Phaeodactylum tricornutum under low light (LL) and high light (HL) conditions. Sub-fractionating the pool of major FCPs yielded different populations of trimeric complexes. Only Lhcf and Lhc-like proteins were found in the trimers. Under LL, the first polypeptide fraction contained six different Lhcfs and was mainly composed of Lhcf10. It was characterised by the highest amount of fucoxanthin (Fx). The second was dominated by Lhcf10, Lhcf5 and Lhcf2, and had a lower Fx/Chl c ratio. Little Fx/Chl c also characterised the most abundant FCP complexes, found in fraction 3, composed mainly of Lhcf5. These FCPs bound Fx molecules with the strongest bathochromic shift. The last two fractions contained FCP complexes that were built mainly of Lhcf4, harbouring more Fx molecules that absorbed at shorter wavelengths. Under HL, the same main polypeptides were retrieved in the different fractions and spectroscopic features were almost identical except for a higher diadinoxanthin content. The total amount of Lhcf5 was reduced under HL, whereas the amount of the last two fractions and thereby Lhcf4 was increased. Lhcf11 was identified in different LL fractions, but not detected in any HL fraction, while two new Lhc-like proteins were only found under HL. This is the first report on different trimeric FCP complexes in pennate diatoms, which differ in polypeptide composition and pigmentation, and are differentially expressed by light.

Concepts: Algae, Spectroscopy, Peptide, Wavelength, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology


Chloroplasts are unique organelles that are responsible for photosynthesis. Although chloroplasts contain their own genome, the majority of chloroplast proteins are encoded by the nuclear genome. These proteins are transported to the chloroplasts after translation in the cytosol. Chloroplasts contain three membrane systems (outer/inner envelope and thylakoid membranes) that subdivide the interior into three soluble compartments known as the intermembrane space, stroma, and thylakoid lumen. Several targeting mechanisms are required to deliver proteins to the correct chloroplast membrane or soluble compartment. These mechanisms have been extensively studied using purified chloroplasts in vitro. Prior to targeting these proteins to the various compartments of the chloroplast, they must be correctly sorted in the cytosol. To date, it is not clear how these proteins are sorted in the cytosol and then targeted to the chloroplasts. Recently, the cytosolic carrier protein AKR2 and its associated cofactor Hsp17.8 for outer envelope membrane proteins of chloroplasts were identified. Additionally, a mechanism for controlling unimported plastid precursors in the cytosol has been discovered. This review will mainly focus on recent findings concerning the possible cytosolic events that occur prior to protein targeting to the chloroplasts. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Protein Import and Quality Control in Mitochondria and Plastids.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Mitochondrion, Organelle, Ribosome, Chloroplast, Thylakoid, Inner membrane


Tryptophan (Trp) is abundant in membrane proteins, preferentially residing near the lipid-water interface where it is thought to play a significant anchoring role. Using a total of 3μs of molecular dynamics simulations for a library of hydrophobic WALP-like peptides, a long poly-Leu α-helix, and the methyl-indole analog, we explore the thermodynamics of the Trp movement in membranes that governs the stability and orientation of transmembrane protein segments. We examine the dominant hydrogen-bonding interactions between the Trp and lipid carbonyl and phosphate moieties, cation-π interactions to lipid choline moieties, and elucidate the contributions to the thermodynamics that serve to localize the Trp, by ~4kcal/mol, near the membrane glycerol backbone region. We show a striking similarity between the free energy to move an isolated Trp side chain to that found from a wide range of WALP peptides, suggesting that the location of this side chain is nearly independent of the host transmembrane segment. Our calculations provide quantitative measures that explain Trp’s role as a modulator of responses to hydrophobic mismatch, providing a deeper understanding of how lipid composition may control a range of membrane active peptides and proteins.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Cell membrane, Membrane protein, Transmembrane protein, Lipid bilayer, Integral membrane protein, Peripheral membrane protein


Human M-proinsulin was cleaved by trypsin at the R(31)R(32)-E(33) and K(64)R(65)-G(66) bonds (B/C and C/A junctions), showing the same cleavage specificity as exhibited by prohormone convertases 1 and 2 respectively. Buffalo/bovine M-proinsulin was also cleaved by trypsin at the K(59)R(60)-G(61) bond but at the B/C junction cleavage occurred at the R(31)R(32)-E(33) as well as the R(31)-R(32)E(33) bond. Thus, the human isoform in the native state, with a 31 residue connecting C-peptide, seems to have a unique structure around the B/C and C/A junctions and cleavage at these sites is predominantly governed by the structure of the proinsulin itself. In the case of both the proinsulin species the cleavage at the B/C junction was preferred (65%) over that at the C/A junction (35%) supporting the earlier suggestion of the presence of some form of secondary structure at the C/A junction. Proinsulin and its derivatives, as natural substrates for trypsin, were used and mass spectrometric analysis showed that the k(cat.)/K(m) values for the cleavage were most favourable for the scission of the bonds at the two junctions (1.02±0.08×10(5)s(-1)M(-1)) and the cleavage of the K(29)-T(30) bond of M-insulin-RR (1.3±0.07×10(5)s(-1)M(-1)). However, the K(29)-T(30) bond in M-insulin, insulin as well as M-proinsulin was shielded from attack by trypsin (k(cat.)/K(m) values around 1000s(-1)M(-1)). Hence, as the biosynthetic path follows the sequence; proinsulin→insulin-RR→insulin, the K(29)-T(30) bond becomes shielded, exposed then shielded again respectively.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Insulin, Pancreas, Sociology, Bond, C-peptide, Proinsulin, Bonds, Lancashire


The transthyretin amyloidoses (ATTR) are devastating diseases characterized by progressive neuropathy and/or cardiomyopathy for which novel therapeutic strategies are needed. We have recently shown that curcumin (diferuloylmethane), the major bioactive polyphenol of turmeric, strongly suppresses TTR fibril formation in vitro, either by stabilization of TTR tetramer or by generating nonfibrillar small intermediates that are innocuous to cultured neuronal cells. In the present study, we aim to assess the effect of curcumin on TTR amyloidogenesis in vivo, using a well characterized mouse model for familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP). Mice were given 2% (w/w) dietary curcumin or control diet for a six week period. Curcumin supplementation resulted in micromolar steady-state levels in plasma as determined by LC/MS/MS. We show that curcumin binds selectively to the TTR thyroxine-binding sites of the tetramer over all the other plasma proteins. The effect on plasma TTR stability was determined by isoelectric focusing (IEF) and curcumin was found to significantly increase TTR tetramer resistance to dissociation. Most importantly, immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis of mice tissues demonstrated that curcumin reduced TTR load in as much as 70% and lowered cytotoxicity associated with TTR aggregation by decreasing activation of death receptor Fas/CD95, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone BiP and 3-nitrotyrosine in tissues. Taken together, our results highlight the potential use of curcumin as a lead molecule for the prevention and treatment of TTR amyloidosis.

Concepts: Protein, Endoplasmic reticulum, In vivo, Amyloid, In vitro, Amyloidosis, Transthyretin, Curcumin