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Alternative gene splicing gives rise to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor ion channels with defined functional properties and unique contributions to calcium signaling in a given chemical environment in the mammalian brain. Splice variants possessing the exon-5-encoded motif at the amino-terminal domain (ATD) of the GluN1 subunit are known to display robustly altered deactivation rates and pH sensitivity, but the underlying mechanism for this functional modification is largely unknown. Here, we show through cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) that the presence of the exon 5 motif in GluN1 alters the local architecture of heterotetrameric GluN1-GluN2 NMDA receptors and creates contacts with the ligand-binding domains (LBDs) of the GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, which are absent in NMDA receptors lacking the exon 5 motif. The unique interactions established by the exon 5 motif are essential to the stability of the ATD/LBD and LBD/LBD interfaces that are critically involved in controlling proton sensitivity and deactivation.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most important signal transducers in higher eukaryotes. Despite considerable progress, the molecular basis of subtype-specific ligand selectivity, especially for peptide receptors, remains unknown. Here, by integrating DNP-enhanced solid-state NMR spectroscopy with advanced molecular modeling and docking, the mechanism of the subtype selectivity of human bradykinin receptors for their peptide agonists has been resolved. The conserved middle segments of the bound peptides show distinct conformations that result in different presentations of their N and C termini toward their receptors. Analysis of the peptide-receptor interfaces reveals that the charged N-terminal residues of the peptides are mainly selected through electrostatic interactions, whereas the C-terminal segments are recognized via both conformations and interactions. The detailed molecular picture obtained by this approach opens a new gateway for exploring the complex conformational and chemical space of peptides and peptide analogs for designing GPCR subtype-selective biochemical tools and drugs.
Insects combat infection by mounting powerful immune responses that are mediated by hemocytes, the fat body, the midgut, the salivary glands and other tissues. Foreign organisms that have entered the body of an insect are recognized by the immune system when pathogen-associated molecular patterns bind host-derived pattern recognition receptors. This, in turn, activates immune signaling pathways that amplify the immune response, induce the production of factors with antimicrobial activity, and activate effector pathways. Among the immune signaling pathways are the Toll, Imd, Jak/Stat, JNK, and insulin pathways. Activation of these and other pathways leads to pathogen killing via phagocytosis, melanization, cellular encapsulation, nodulation, lysis, RNAi-mediated virus destruction, autophagy and apoptosis. This review details these and other aspects of immunity in insects, and discusses how the immune and circulatory systems have co-adapted to combat infection, how hemocyte replication and differentiation takes place (hematopoiesis), how an infection prepares an insect for a subsequent infection (immune priming), how environmental factors such as temperature and the age of the insect impact the immune response, and how social immunity protects entire groups. Finally, this review highlights some underexplored areas in the field of insect immunobiology.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
When pathogens invade the insect hemocoel (body cavity) they immediately confront two major forces: immune-responses and circulatory currents. The immune response is mediated by circulating and sessile hemocytes, the fat body, the midgut, and the salivary glands. These tissues drive cellular and humoral immune processes that kill pathogens via phagocytosis, melanization, lysis, encapsulation, and nodulation. Moreover, immune-responses take place within a three-dimensional and dynamic space that is governed by the forces of the circulatory system. The circulation of hemolymph (insect blood) is primarily controlled by the wave-like contraction of a dorsal vessel, which is a muscular tube that extends the length of the insect and is divided into a thoracic aorta and an abdominal heart. Distributed along the heart are valves, called ostia, that allow hemolymph to enter the vessel. Once inside the heart, hemolymph is sequentially propelled to the anterior and to the posterior of the body. During an infection, circulatory currents sweep small pathogens to all regions of the body. As they circulate, pathogens encounter immune factors of the insect that range from soluble cytotoxic peptides to phagocytic hemocytes. A prominent location for these encounters is the surface of the heart. Specifically, periostial hemocytes aggregate in the extracardiac regions that flank the heart's ostia (the periostial regions) and phagocytoze pathogens in areas of high flow of hemolymph. This review summarizes the biology of the immune and circulatory systems of insects, including how these two systems have co-adapted to fight infection. This review also compares the immune and circulatory systems of insects to that of crustaceans, and details how attachment of hemocytes to cardiac tissues and the biology of the lymphoid organ demonstrate that dynamic interactions between the immune and circulatory systems also occur in lineages of crustaceans.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. For permissions please email: email@example.com.
Stalled replication forks are sources of genetic instability. Multiple fork-remodeling enzymes are recruited to stalled forks, but how they work to promote fork restart is poorly understood. By combining ensemble biochemical assays and single-molecule studies with magnetic tweezers, we show that SMARCAL1 branch migration and DNA-annealing activities are directed by the single-stranded DNA-binding protein RPA to selectively regress stalled replication forks caused by blockage to the leading-strand polymerase and to restore normal replication forks with a lagging-strand gap. We unveil the molecular mechanisms by which RPA enforces SMARCAL1 substrate preference. E. coli RecG acts similarly to SMARCAL1 in the presence of E. coli SSB, whereas the highly related human protein ZRANB3 has different substrate preferences. Our findings identify the important substrates of SMARCAL1 in fork repair, suggest that RecG and SMARCAL1 are functional orthologs, and provide a comprehensive model of fork repair by these DNA translocases.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The innate immune system is an ancient component of host defense. Since innate immunity pathways are well conserved throughout many eukaryotes, immune genes in model animals can be used to putatively identify homologous genes in newly sequenced genomes of non-model organisms. With the initiation of the "i5k" project, which aims to sequence 5,000 insect genomes by 2016, many novel insect genomes will soon become publicly available, yet few annotation resources are currently available for insects. Thus, we developed an online tool called the Insect Innate Immunity Database (IIID) to provide an open access resource for insect immunity and comparative biology research (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/IIID). The database provides users with simple exploratory tools to search the immune repertoires of five insect models (including Nasonia), spanning three orders, for specific immunity genes or genes within a particular immunity pathway. As a proof of principle, we used an initial database with only four insect models to annotate potential immune genes in the parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia. Results specify 306 putative immune genes in the genomes of N. vitripennis and its two sister species N. giraulti and N. longicornis. Of these genes, 146 were not found in previous annotations of Nasonia immunity genes. Combining these newly identified immune genes with those in previous annotations, Nasonia possess 489 putative immunity genes, the largest immune repertoire found in insects to date. While these computational predictions need to be complemented with functional studies, the IIID database can help initiate and augment annotations of the immune system in the plethora of insect genomes that will soon become available.
In insects, odor cues are discriminated through a divergent family of odorant receptors (ORs). A functional OR complex consists of both a conventional odorant-binding OR and a nonconventional coreceptor (Orco) that is highly conserved across insect taxa. Recent reports have characterized insect ORs as ion channels, but the precise mechanism of signaling remains unclear. We report the identification and characterization of an Orco family agonist, VUAA1, using the Anopheles gambiae coreceptor (AgOrco) and other orthologues. These studies reveal that the Orco family can form functional ion channels in the absence of an odor-binding OR, and in addition, demonstrate a first-in-class agonist to further research in insect OR signaling. In light of the extraordinary conservation and widespread expression of the Orco family, VUAA1 represents a powerful new family of compounds that can be used to disrupt the destructive behaviors of nuisance insects, agricultural pests, and disease vectors alike.
We report here genome sequences and comparative analyses of three closely related parasitoid wasps: Nasonia vitripennis, N. giraulti, and N. longicornis. Parasitoids are important regulators of arthropod populations, including major agricultural pests and disease vectors, and Nasonia is an emerging genetic model, particularly for evolutionary and developmental genetics. Key findings include the identification of a functional DNA methylation tool kit; hymenopteran-specific genes including diverse venoms; lateral gene transfers among Pox viruses, Wolbachia, and Nasonia; and the rapid evolution of genes involved in nuclear-mitochondrial interactions that are implicated in speciation. Newly developed genome resources advance Nasonia for genetic research, accelerate mapping and cloning of quantitative trait loci, and will ultimately provide tools and knowledge for further increasing the utility of parasitoids as pest insect-control agents.
The correct stereochemistry of prostaglandins is a prerequisite of their biological activity and thus is under a strict enzymatic control. Recently, we cloned and characterized two cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms in the coral Plexaura homomalla that share 97% amino acid sequence identity, yet form prostaglandins with opposite stereochemistry at carbon 15. The difference in oxygenation specificity is only partially accounted for by the single amino acid substitution in the active site (Ile or Val at position 349). For further elucidation of residues involved in the C-15 stereocontrol, a series of sequence swapping and site-directed mutagenesis experiments between 15R- and 15S-COX were performed. Our results show that the change in stereochemistry at carbon 15 of prostaglandins relates mainly to five amino acid substitutions on helices 5 and 6 of the coral COX. In COX proteins, these helices form a helix-turn-helix motif that traverses through the entire protein, contributing to the second shell of residues around the oxygenase active site; it constitutes the most highly conserved region where even slight changes result in loss of catalytic activity. The finding that this region is among the least conserved between the P. homomalla 15S- and 15R-specific COX further supports its significance in maintaining the desired prostaglandin stereochemistry at C-15. The results are particularly remarkable because, based on its strong conservation, the conserved middle of helix 5 is considered as central to the core structure of peroxidases, of which COX proteins are derivatives. Now we show that the same parts of the protein are involved in the control of oxygenation with 15R or 15S stereospecificity in the dioxygenase active site.
Herpesviruses require membrane-associated glycoproteins gB, gH, and gL for entry into host cells. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) gp42 is a unique protein also required for viral entry into B cells. Key interactions between EBV gp42 and the EBV gH/gL complex were investigated to further elucidate their roles in membrane fusion. Deletion and point mutants within the N-terminal region of gp42 revealed residues important for gH/gL binding and membrane fusion. Many five-residue deletion mutants in the N-terminal region of gp42 that exhibit reduced membrane fusion activity retain binding with gH/gL but map out two functional stretches between residues 36 and 96. Synthetic peptides derived from the gp42 N-terminal region were studied in in vitro binding experiments with purified gH/gL and in cell-cell fusion assays. A peptide spanning gp42 residues 36 to 81 (peptide 36-81) binds gH/gL with nanomolar affinity, comparable to full-length gp42. Peptide 36-81 efficiently inhibits epithelial cell membrane fusion and competes with soluble gp42 to inhibit B-cell fusion. Additionally, this peptide at low nanomolar concentrations inhibits epithelial cell infection by intact virus. Shorter gp42 peptides spanning the two functional regions identified by deletion mutagenesis had little or no binding to soluble gH/gL and were also unable to inhibit epithelial cell fusion, nor could they complement gp42 deletion mutants in B-cell fusion. These studies identify key residues of gp42 that are essential for gH/gL binding and membrane fusion activation, providing a nanomolar inhibitor of EBV-mediated membrane fusion.