We describe here a strain of Yersinia pestis, G1670A, which exhibits a baseline mutation rate elevated 250-fold over wild-type Y. pestis. The responsible mutation, a C to T substitution in the mutS gene, results in the transition of a highly conserved leucine at position 689 to arginine (mutS(L689R)). When the MutSL 689R protein of G1670A was expressed in a ?mutS derivative of Y. pestis strain EV76, mutation rates observed were equivalent to those observed in G1670A, consistent with a causal association between the mutS mutation and the mutator phenotype. The observation of a mutator allele in Yersinia pestis has potential implications for the study of evolution of this and other especially dangerous pathogens.
In the future, we may be faced with the need to provide treatment for an emergent biological threat against which existing vaccines and drugs have limited efficacy or availability. To prepare for this eventuality, our objective was to use a metabolic network-based approach to rapidly identify potential drug targets and prospectively screen and validate novel small-molecule antimicrobials. Our target organism was the fully virulent Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis Schu S4 strain, a highly infectious intracellular pathogen that is the causative agent of tularemia and is classified as a category A biological agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We proceeded with a staggered computational and experimental workflow that used a strain-specific metabolic network model, homology modeling and X-ray crystallography of protein targets, and ligand- and structure-based drug design. Selected compounds were subsequently filtered based on physiological-based pharmacokinetic modeling, and we selected a final set of 40 compounds for experimental validation of antimicrobial activity. We began screening these compounds in whole bacterial cell-based assays in biosafety level 3 facilities in the 20th week of the study and completed the screens within 12 weeks. Six compounds showed significant growth inhibition of F. tularensis, and we determined their respective minimum inhibitory concentrations and mammalian cell cytotoxicities. The most promising compound had a low molecular weight, was non-toxic, and abolished bacterial growth at 13 µM, with putative activity against pantetheine-phosphate adenylyltransferase, an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of coenzyme A, encoded by gene coaD. The novel antimicrobial compounds identified in this study serve as starting points for lead optimization, animal testing, and drug development against tularemia. Our integrated in silico/in vitro approach had an overall 15% success rate in terms of active versus tested compounds over an elapsed time period of 32 weeks, from pathogen strain identification to selection and validation of novel antimicrobial compounds.
Most of the currently used methods for protein function prediction rely on sequence-based comparisons between a query protein and those for which a functional annotation is provided. A serious limitation of sequence similarity-based approaches for identifying residue conservation among proteins is the low confidence in assigning residue-residue correspondences among proteins when the level of sequence identity between the compared proteins is poor. Multiple sequence alignment methods are more satisfactory--still, they cannot provide reliable results at low levels of sequence identity. Our goal in the current work was to develop an algorithm that could help overcome these difficulties by facilitating the identification of structurally (and possibly functionally) relevant residue-residue correspondences between compared protein structures.
Here we introduce a quantitative structure-driven computational domain-fusion method, which we used to predict the structures of proteins believed to be involved in regulation of the subtilin pathway in Bacillus subtilis, and used to predict a protein-protein complex formed by interaction between the proteins. Homology modeling of SpaK and SpaR yielded preliminary structural models based on a best template for SpaK comprising a dimer of a histidine kinase, and for SpaR a response regulator protein. Our LGA code was used to identify multi-domain proteins with structure homology to both modeled structures, yielding a set of domain-fusion templates then used to model a hypothetical SpaK/SpaR complex. The models were used to identify putative functional residues and residues at the protein-protein interface, and bioinformatics was used to compare functionally and structurally relevant residues in corresponding positions among proteins with structural homology to the templates. Models of the complex were evaluated in light of known properties of the functional residues within two-component systems involving His-Asp phosphorelays. Based on this analysis, a phosphotransferase complexed with a beryllofluoride was selected as the optimal template for modeling a SpaK/SpaR complex conformation. In vitro phosphorylation studies performed using wild type and site-directed SpaK mutant proteins validated the predictions derived from application of the structure-driven domain-fusion method: SpaK was phosphorylated in the presence of (32)P-ATP and the phosphate moiety was subsequently transferred to SpaR, supporting the hypothesis that SpaK and SpaR function as sensor and response regulator, respectively, in a two-component signal transduction system, and furthermore suggesting that the structure-driven domain-fusion approach correctly predicted a physical interaction between SpaK and SpaR. Our domain-fusion algorithm leverages quantitative structure information and provides a tool for generation of hypotheses regarding protein function, which can then be tested using empirical methods.
Genes conferring antibiotic resistance to groups of bacterial pathogens are cause for considerable concern, as many once-reliable antibiotics continue to see a reduction in efficacy. The recent discovery of the metallo ?-lactamase blaNDM-1 gene, which appears to grant antibiotic resistance to a variety of Enterobacteriaceae via a mobile plasmid, is one example of this distressing trend. The following work describes a computational analysis of pathogen-borne MBLs that focuses on the structural aspects of characterized proteins.
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