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Novel protein technologies to probe the structure of membrane proteins (18) | Dr Kostas Beis

The aim of this tutorial is to review the recent developments in protein 'engineering' that have facilitated the structure elucidation of membrane proteins.

Protein 'engineering' includes mutagenesis, chimeras, antibodies, thermostabilisation and so on. The students should discuss in detail two 'engineering' approaches with structural examples.

Dr Kostas Beis


Engineering a minimal G protein to facilitate crystallisation of G protein-coupled receptors in their active conformation.

Abstract: G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) modulate cytoplasmic signalling in response to extracellular stimuli, and are important therapeutic targets in a wide range of diseases. Structure determination of GPCRs in all activation states is important to elucidate the precise mechanism of signal transduction and to facilitate optimal drug design. However, due to their inherent instability, crystallisation of GPCRs in complex with cytoplasmic signalling proteins, such as heterotrimeric G proteins and β-arrestins, has proved challenging. Here, we describe the design of a minimal G protein, mini-Gs, which is composed solely of the GTPase domain from the adenylate cyclase stimulating G protein Gs Mini-Gs is a small, soluble protein, which efficiently couples GPCRs in the absence of Gβγ subunits. We engineered mini-Gs, using rational design mutagenesis, to form a stable complex with detergent-solubilised β1-adrenergic receptor (β1AR). Mini G proteins induce similar pharmacological and structural changes in GPCRs as heterotrimeric G proteins, but eliminate many of the problems associated with crystallisation of these complexes, specifically their large size, conformational dynamics and instability in detergent. They are therefore novel tools, which will facilitate the biochemical and structural characterisation of GPCRs in their active conformation.

Pub.: 28 Sep '16, Pinned: 25 Jan '17

A mutagenesis and screening strategy to generate optimally thermostabilized membrane proteins for structural studies

Abstract: The thermostability of an integral membrane protein (MP) in detergent solution is a key parameter that dictates the likelihood of obtaining well-diffracting crystals that are suitable for structure determination. However, many mammalian MPs are too unstable for crystallization. We developed a thermostabilization strategy based on systematic mutagenesis coupled to a radioligand-binding thermostability assay that can be applied to receptors, ion channels and transporters. It takes ~6–12 months to thermostabilize a G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) containing 300 amino acid (aa) residues. The resulting thermostabilized MPs are more easily crystallized and result in high-quality structures. This methodology has facilitated structure-based drug design applied to GPCRs because it is possible to determine multiple structures of the thermostabilized receptors bound to low-affinity ligands. Protocols and advice are given on how to develop thermostability assays for MPs and how to combine mutations to make an optimally stable mutant suitable for structural studies. The steps in the procedure include the generation of ~300 site-directed mutants by Ala/Leu scanning mutagenesis, the expression of each mutant in mammalian cells by transient transfection and the identification of thermostable mutants using a thermostability assay that is based on binding of an 125I-labeled radioligand to the unpurified, detergent-solubilized MP. Individual thermostabilizing point mutations are then combined to make an optimally stable MP that is suitable for structural biology and other biophysical studies.

Pub.: 28 Jul '16, Pinned: 25 Jan '17

Crystallizing Membrane Proteins in the Lipidic Mesophase. Experience with Human Prostaglandin E2 Synthase 1 and an Evolving Strategy.

Abstract: The lipidic mesophase or in meso method for crystallizing membrane proteins has several high profile targets to its credit and is growing in popularity. Despite its success, the method is in its infancy as far as rational crystallogenesis is concerned. Consequently, significant time, effort, and resources are still required to generate structure-grade crystals, especially with a new target type. Therefore, a need exists for crystallogenesis protocols that are effective with a broad range of membrane protein types. Recently, a strategy for crystallizing a prokaryotic α-helical membrane protein, diacylglycerol kinase (DgkA), by the in meso method was reported (Cryst. Growth. Des.2013, 14, 2846-2857). Here, we describe its application to the human α-helical microsomal prostaglandin E2 synthase 1 (mPGES1). While the DgkA strategy proved useful, significant modifications were needed to generate structure-quality crystals of this important therapeutic target. These included protein engineering, using an additive phospholipid in the hosting mesophase, performing multiple rounds of salt screening, and carrying out trials at 4 °C in the presence of a tight binding ligand. The crystallization strategy detailed here should prove useful for generating structures of other integral membrane proteins by the in meso method.

Pub.: 08 May '14, Pinned: 25 Jan '17

Protein engineering methods applied to membrane protein targets.

Abstract: Genes encoding membrane proteins have been estimated to comprise as much as 30% of the human genome. Among these membrane, proteins are a large number of signaling receptors, transporters, ion channels and enzymes that are vital to cellular regulation, metabolism and homeostasis. While many membrane proteins are considered high-priority targets for drug design, there is a dearth of structural and biochemical information on them. This lack of information stems from the inherent insolubility and instability of transmembrane domains, which prevents easy obtainment of high-resolution crystals to specifically study structure-function relationships. In part, this lack of structures has greatly impeded our understanding in the field of membrane proteins. One method that can be used to enhance our understanding is directed evolution, a molecular biology method that mimics natural selection to engineer proteins that have specific phenotypes. It is a powerful technique that has considerable success with globular proteins, notably the engineering of protein therapeutics. With respect to transmembrane protein targets, this tool may be underutilized. Another powerful tool to investigate membrane protein structure-function relationships is computational modeling. This review will discuss these protein engineering methods and their tremendous potential in the study of membrane proteins.

Pub.: 03 Nov '12, Pinned: 25 Jan '17