JACS September 2016: Abstract

Lewis A. Churchfield, Annette Medina-Morales, Jeffrey D. Brodin, Alfredo Perez, and F. Akif Tezcan

    A major goal in metalloprotein design is to build protein scaffolds from scratch that allow precise control over metal coordination. A particular challenge in this regard is the construction of allosteric systems in which metal coordination equilibria are coupled to other chemical events that take place elsewhere in the protein scaffold. We previously developed a metal-templated self-assembly strategy (MeTIR) to build supramolecular protein complexes with tailorable interfaces from monomeric building blocks. Here, using this strategy, we have incorporated multiple disulfide bonds into the interfaces of a Zn-templated cytochrome cb562 assembly in order to create mechanical strain on the quaternary structural level. Structural and biophysical analyses indicate that this strain leads to an allosteric system in which Zn2+ binding and dissociation are remotely coupled to the formation and breakage of a disulfide bond over a distance of >14 Å. The breakage of this strained bond upon Zn2+ dissociation occurs in the absence of any reductants, apparently through a hydrolytic mechanism that generates a sulfenic acid/thiol pair.

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Tyrosine-Coordinated P-Cluster in G. diazotrophicus Nitrogenase: Evidence for the Importance of O-Based Ligands in Conformationally Gated Electron Transfer


JACS August 2016: Abstract

Cedric P. Owens, Faith E. H. Katz, Cole H. Carter, Victoria F. Oswald, and F. Akif Tezcan

    The P-cluster is a unique iron–sulfur center that likely functions as a dynamic electron (e–) relay site between the Fe-protein and the catalytic FeMo-cofactor in nitrogenase. The P-cluster has been shown to undergo large conformational changes upon 2-e– oxidation which entail the coordination of two of the Fe centers to a Ser side chain and a backbone amide N, respectively. Yet, how and if this 2-e– oxidized state (POX) is involved in catalysis by nitrogenase is not well established. Here, we present the crystal structures of reduced and oxidized MoFe-protein (MoFeP) from Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus (Gd), which natively possesses an Ala residue in the position of the Ser ligand to the P-cluster. While reduced Gd-MoFeP is structurally identical to previously characterized counterparts around the FeMo-cofactor, oxidized Gd-MoFeP features an unusual Tyr coordination to its P-cluster along with ligation by a backbone amide nitrogen. EPR analysis of the oxidized Gd-MoFeP P-cluster confirmed that it is a 2-e– oxidized, integer-spin species. Importantly, we have found that the sequence positions corresponding to the Ser and Tyr ligands are almost completely covariant among Group I nitrogenases. These findings strongly support the possibility that the POX state is functionally relevant in nitrogenase catalysis and that a hard, O-based anionic ligand serves to stabilize this state in a switchable fashion.

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Self-assembly of coherently dynamic, auxetic, two-dimensional protein crystals


Nature (May 2016): Abstract

Yuta Suzuki, Giovanni Cardone, David Restrepo, Pablo D. Zavattieri, Timothy S. Baker & F. Akif Tezcan

    Two-dimensional (2D) crystalline materials possess unique structural, mechanical and electronic properties that make them highly attractive in many applications. Although there have been advances in preparing 2D materials that consist of one or a few atomic or molecular layers, bottom-up assembly of 2D crystalline materials remains a challenge and an active area of development. More challenging is the design of dynamic 2D lattices that can undergo large-scale motions without loss of crystallinity. Dynamic behaviour in porous three-dimensional (3D) crystalline solids has been exploited for stimuli-responsive functions and adaptive behaviour. As in such 3D materials, integrating flexibility and adaptiveness into crystalline 2D lattices would greatly broaden the functional scope of 2D materials. Here we report the self-assembly of unsupported, 2D protein lattices with precise spatial arrangements and patterns using a readily accessible design strategy. Three single- or double-point mutants of the C4-symmetric protein RhuA were designed to assemble via different modes of intermolecular interactions (single-disulfide, double-disulfide and metal-coordination) into crystalline 2D arrays. Owing to the flexibility of the single-disulfide interactions, the lattices of one of the variants (C98RhuA) are essentially defect-free and undergo substantial, but fully correlated, changes in molecular arrangement, yielding coherently dynamic 2D molecular lattices. C98RhuA lattices display a Poisson’s ratio of −1 — the lowest thermodynamically possible value for an isotropic material—making them auxetic.

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Evidence for Functionally Relevant Encounter Complexes in Nitrogenase Catalysis


JACS September 2015: Abstract

Cedric P. Owens, Faith E. H. Katz, Cole H. Carter, Maria A. Luca, and F. Akif Tezcan

    Nitrogenase is the only enzyme that can convert atmospheric dinitrogen (N2) into biologically usable ammonia (NH3). To achieve this multielectron redox process, the nitrogenase component proteins, MoFe-protein (MoFeP) and Fe-protein (FeP), repeatedly associate and dissociate in an ATP-dependent manner, where one electron is transferred from FeP to MoFeP per association. Here, we provide experimental evidence that encounter complexes between FeP and MoFeP play a functional role in nitrogenase catalysis. The encounter complexes are stabilized by electrostatic interactions involving a positively charged patch on the β-subunit of MoFeP. Three single mutations (βAsn399Glu, βLys400Glu, and βArg401Glu) in this patch were generated in Azotobacter vinelandii MoFeP. All of the resulting variants displayed decreases in specific catalytic activity, with the βK400E mutation showing the largest effect. As simulated by the Thorneley–Lowe kinetic scheme, this single mutation lowered the rate constant for FeP-MoFeP association 5-fold. We also found that the βK400E mutation did not affect the coupling of ATP hydrolysis with electron transfer (ET) between FeP and MoFeP. These data suggest a mechanism where FeP initially forms encounter complexes on the MoFeP β-subunit surface en route to the ATP-activated, ET-competent complex over the αβ-interface.

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A Metal Organic Framework with Spherical Protein Nodes: Rational Chemical Design of 3D Protein Crystals

JACS Communication August 2015: Abstract

Pamela A. Sontz, Jake B. Bailey, Sunhyung Ahn, and F. Akif Tezcan

    We describe here the construction of a three-dimensional, porous, crystalline framework formed by spherical protein nodes that assemble into a prescribed lattice arrangement through metal–organic linker-directed interactions. The octahedral iron storage enzyme, ferritin, was engineered in its C3 symmetric pores with tripodal Zn coordination sites. Dynamic light scattering and crystallographic studies established that this Zn-ferritin construct could robustly self-assemble into the desired bcc-type crystals upon coordination of a ditopic linker bearing hydroxamic acid functional groups. This system represents the first example of a ternary protein–metal–organic crystalline framework whose formation is fully dependent on each of its three components.

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Designed, Helical Protein Nanotubes with Variable Diameters from a Single Building Block

JACS August 2015: Abstract

Jeffrey D. Brodin, Sarah J. Smith, Jessica R. Carr, and F. Akif Tezcan

    Due to their structural and mechanical properties, 1D helical protein assemblies represent highly attractive design targets for biomolecular engineering and protein design. Here we present a designed, tetrameric protein building block, Zn8R4, which assembles via Zn coordination interactions into a series of crystalline, helical nanotubes whose widths can be controlled by solution conditions. X-ray crystallography and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) measurements indicate that all classes of protein nanotubes are constructed through the same 2D arrangement of Zn8R4 tetramers held together by Zn coordination. The mechanical properties of these nanotubes are correlated with their widths. All Zn8R4 nanotubes are found to be highly flexible despite possessing crystalline order, owing to their minimal interbuilding-block interactions mediated solely by metal coordination.

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