Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 725-773; doi:10.3390/biom4030725 - published online 24 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The discovery of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins, which contain significant levels of disorder yet perform complex biologically functions, as well as unwanted aggregation, has motivated numerous experimental and theoretical studies aimed at describing residue-level conformational ensembles. Multiple lines of evidence gathered over the last 15 years strongly suggest that amino acids residues display unique and restricted conformational preferences in the unfolded state of peptides and proteins, contrary to one of the basic assumptions of the canonical random coil model. To fully understand residue level order/disorder, however, one has to gain a quantitative, experimentally based picture of conformational distributions and to determine the physical basis underlying residue-level conformational biases. Here, we review the experimental, computational and bioinformatic evidence for conformational preferences of amino acid residues in (mostly short) peptides that can be utilized as suitable model systems for unfolded states of peptides and proteins. In this context particular attention is paid to the alleged high polyproline II preference of alanine. We discuss how these conformational propensities may be modulated by peptide solvent interactions and so called nearest-neighbor interactions. The relevance of conformational propensities for the protein folding problem and the understanding of IDPs is briefly discussed.
Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 704-724; doi:10.3390/biom4030704 - published online 17 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Molecular chaperones were originally discovered as heat shock-induced proteins that facilitate proper folding of proteins with non-native conformations. While the function of chaperones in protein folding has been well documented over the last four decades, more recent studies have shown that chaperones are also necessary for the clearance of terminally misfolded proteins by the Ub-proteasome system. In this capacity, chaperones protect misfolded degradation substrates from spontaneous aggregation, facilitate their recognition by the Ub ligation machinery and finally shuttle the ubiquitylated substrates to the proteasome. The physiological importance of these functions is manifested by inefficient proteasomal degradation and the accumulation of protein aggregates during ageing or in certain neurodegenerative diseases, when chaperone levels decline. In this review, we focus on the diverse roles of stress-induced chaperones in targeting misfolded proteins to the proteasome and the consequences of their compromised activity. We further discuss the implications of these findings to the identification of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of amyloid diseases.
Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 678-703; doi:10.3390/biom4030678 - published online 17 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The primary cause(s) of neuronal death in most cases of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, are still unknown. However, the association of certain etiological factors, e.g., oxidative stress, protein misfolding/aggregation, redox metal accumulation and various types of damage to the genome, to pathological changes in the affected brain region(s) have been consistently observed. While redox metal toxicity received major attention in the last decade, its potential as a therapeutic target is still at a cross-roads, mostly because of the lack of mechanistic understanding of metal dyshomeostasis in affected neurons. Furthermore, previous studies have established the role of metals in causing genome damage, both directly and via the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), but little was known about their impact on genome repair. Our recent studies demonstrated that excess levels of iron and copper observed in neurodegenerative disease-affected brain neurons could not only induce genome damage in neurons, but also affect their repair by oxidatively inhibiting NEIL DNA glycosylases, which initiate the repair of oxidized DNA bases. The inhibitory effect was reversed by a combination of metal chelators and reducing agents, which underscore the need for elucidating the molecular basis for the neuronal toxicity of metals in order to develop effective therapeutic approaches. In this review, we have focused on the oxidative genome damage repair pathway as a potential target for reducing pro-oxidant metal toxicity in neurological diseases.
Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 662-677; doi:10.3390/biom4030662 - published online 16 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The 26S proteasome has a highly complicated structure comprising the 20S core particle (CP) and the 19S regulatory particle (RP). Along with the standard CP in all eukaryotes, vertebrates have two more subtypes of CP called the immunoproteasome and the thymoproteasome. The immunoproteasome has catalytic subunits β1i, β2i, and β5i replacing β1, β2, and β5 and enhances production of major histocompatibility complex I ligands. The thymoproteasome contains thymus-specific subunit β5t in place of β5 or β5i and plays a pivotal role in positive selection of CD8+ T cells. Here we investigate the assembly pathways of the specialized CPs and show that β1i and β2i are incorporated ahead of all the other β-subunits and that both β5i and β5t can be incorporated immediately after the assembly of β3 in the absence of β4, distinct from the assembly of the standard CP in which β-subunits are incorporated in the order of β2, β3, β4, β5, β6, β1, and β7. The propeptide of β5t is a key factor for this earlier incorporation, whereas the body sequence seems to be important for the earlier incorporation of β5i. This unique feature of β5t and β5i may account for preferential assembly of the immunoproteasome and the thymoproteasome over the standard type even when both the standard and specialized subunits are co-expressed.
Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 646-661; doi:10.3390/biom4030646 - published online 9 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In their natural environment, cells are regularly exposed to various stress conditions that may lead to protein misfolding, but also in the absence of stress, misfolded proteins occur as the result of mutations or failures during protein synthesis. Since such partially denatured proteins are prone to aggregate, cells have evolved several elaborate quality control systems to deal with these potentially toxic proteins. First, various molecular chaperones will seize the misfolded protein and either attempt to refold the protein or target it for degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The degradation of misfolded proteins is clearly compartmentalized, so unique degradation pathways exist for misfolded proteins depending on whether their subcellular localization is ER/secretory, mitochondrial, cytosolic or nuclear. Recent studies, mainly in yeast, have shown that the nucleus appears to be particularly active in protein quality control. Thus, specific ubiquitin-protein ligases located in the nucleus, target not only misfolded nuclear proteins, but also various misfolded cytosolic proteins which are transported to the nucleus prior to their degradation. In comparison, much less is known about these mechanisms in mammalian cells. Here we highlight recent advances in our understanding of nuclear protein quality control, in particular regarding substrate recognition and proteasomal degradation.
Biomolecules2014, 4(3), 616-645; doi:10.3390/biom4030616 - published online 8 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Mixed quantum-classical (quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM)) simulations have strongly contributed to providing insights into the understanding of several structural and mechanistic aspects of biological molecules. They played a particularly important role in metal binding proteins, where the electronic effects of transition metals have to be explicitly taken into account for the correct representation of the underlying biochemical process. In this review, after a brief description of the basic concepts of the QM/MM method, we provide an overview of its capabilities using selected examples taken from our work. Specifically, we will focus on heme peroxidases, metallo-β-lactamases, α-synuclein and ligase ribozymes to show how this approach is capable of describing the catalytic and/or structural role played by transition (Fe, Zn or Cu) and main group (Mg) metals. Applications will reveal how metal ions influence the formation and reduction of high redox intermediates in catalytic cycles and enhance drug metabolism, amyloidogenic aggregate formation and nucleic acid synthesis. In turn, it will become manifest that the protein frame directs and modulates the properties and reactivity of the metal ions.