|dc.description.abstract||My research work for PhD has focused on: (i) the development and application of new NMR methodologies to solve challenging problems in structural biology and (ii) studying important biological systems to correlate their structural and functional aspects. I have worked on diverse research projects ranging from NMR methodology development to the study of structure and dynamics of protein-based nanotubes.
Chapter 1 of my thesis gives brief introduction to bio-molecular NMR spectroscopy and the different biological systems that I have studied. In recent years, several new methods have emerged for rapid NMR data collection. One class of methods is G-matrix Fourier transform (GFT) projection NMR spectroscopy. GFT NMR spectroscopy involves phase sensitive joint sampling of two or more chemical shifts in an indirect dimension of a multidimensional NMR experiment. Chapter 2 describes a new method based on the principle of GFT NMR for increasing further the speed of data collection. In the current implementations of the GFT method, cosine/sine modulation of all chemical shifts involved in the joint sampling are collected and stored as separate FIDs. A post-acquisition data processing step (application of G-matrix) then separates the different inter-modulations of chemical shifts. Thus, joint sampling of K+1 spins results in 2K combination of chemical shifts (also representing 2K projection angles). One limitation of this approach is that even if only a few of the 2K components of the multiplet (or projection angles) is desired, an entire data set containing information for all 2K shift combinations is collected. We have proposed a simple method which releases this restriction and allows one to selectively detect only the desired linear combination of chemical shifts/projection angles out of 2K combinations in a phase sensitive manner. The method involves selecting the appropriate cosine/sine modulations of chemical shifts and forming the desired linear combination by phase cycling of the radiofrequency pulses and receiver. This will benefit applications where only certain linear combination of shifts are desired or/and are sufficient. Further, G-matrix transformation required for forming the linear combination is performed within the pulse sequence. This avoids the need for any post-acquisition data processing. Taken together, this mode of data acquisition will foster new applications in projection NMR spectroscopy for rapid resonance assignment and structure determination.
Chapter 3 describes another GFT NMR-based method for rapid estimation of secondary structure in proteins. This involves the detection of specific linear combination of backbone chemical shifts and facilitates a clear separation and estimation of residues in different secondary structures of a given protein. This methodology named as CSSI-PRO (Combination of Shifts for Secondary structure Identification in PROteins), involves detection of specific linear combination of backbone 1Hα and 13C’ chemical shifts in a two dimensional (2D) NMR experiment. Such linear combination of shifts facilitates editing of residue belonging to α-helical/ β-strand regions into distinct spectral regions nearly independent of the amino acid type. This helps in the estimation of overall secondary structure content of the protein. Comparison of the estimated secondary structure content with those obtained from the respective 3D structures and/or the method of Chemical Shift Index (CSI) was carried out for 254 proteins and gives a correlation of more than 90% and an overall RMSD of 6.5%. The method has high sensitivity and data can be acquired in a few minutes. This methodology has several applications such as for high-throughput screening of proteins in structural proteomics and for monitoring conformational changes during protein folding and/or ligand-binding events.
Chapter 4 (Part-A and Part-B) describes an area of my research which involves the study of structure and function in the Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein (IGFBP) family. IGFBPs (six in number; IGFBP1-6) belong to the IGF-system, which plays an important role in growth and development of the human body. This system is comprised of the following components: (i) Two peptide hormones, IGF-1 and -2, (ii) type 1 and type 2 IGF receptors, (iii) six IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP; numbered 1-6) and (iv) IGFBP proteases. IGF-1 and -2 are small signalling peptides (~7.5 kDa) that stimulate action by binding to specific cell surface receptors (IGF-1R) evoking subsequent response inside the cell. Six soluble IGF binding proteins, the IGFBPs, which range in 22-31 kDa in size and share overall sequence and structural homology with each other, regulate the activity of the IGFs. IGFBPs bind strongly to IGFs (KD ~ 300-700 pM) to ensure that all the circulating IGF in the blood stream is sequestered and inhibit the action of IGFs by blocking their access to the receptors. Proteolysis of the IGFBPs dissociates IGFs from the complex, enabling them to bind and activate the cell surface receptors. IGFBPs have been recently implicated in different cancers and HIV/AIDS. However, the nature of their interaction with the ligand: IGF-1 or IGF-2 at a molecular level poorly understood. This is due to the difficulty in over-expressing these proteins in large scale and in soluble amounts which is required for structural studies. We have for the first time developed an efficient method for bacterial expression of full-length human IGFBP-2, a 33 kDa system, in soluble (upto 30 mg/ml) and folded form. Using a single step purification protocol, hIGFBP-2 was obtained with >95% purity and structurally characterized using NMR spectroscopy. The protein was found to exist as a monomer at the high concentrations required for structural studies and to exist in a single conformation exhibiting a unique intra-molecular disulfide-bonding pattern. The protein retained full biologic activity as evident from its strong binding to IGF-1 and IGF-2 detected using surface plasmon resonance (SPR). This study represents the first high-yield expression of wild-type recombinant human IGFBP-2 in E. coli and first structural characterization by NMR. Using different NMR methods, we are now in the process of elucidating the 3D structure of this molecule.
Chapter 5 (Part-A and Part-B) describes our discovery of nanotubular structures formed by spontaneous self-assembly of a small fragment from the C-terminal domain of hIGFBP-2. The nanotubular structures are several micrometers long and have a uniform outer diameter of ~35 nm. These structures were studied extensively by NMR and other techniques such as TEM, fluorescence and circular dichroism (CD). The water soluble nanotubes form through intermolecular disulphide bonds due to the presence of three cysteines in the polypeptide chain and exhibit enhanced tyrosine fluorescence. Based on different experimental evidences we have proposed a mechanism for the formation of the nanotubes. This was considered as a breakthrough by the journal ChemComm and featured on the cover-page of the journal. An article highlighting the discovery was also published in RSC news.
In recent years, a number of novel polypeptide and DNA based nanotubes have been reported. Our study reveals intrinsically fluorescent self-assembling nanotubes made up of disulphide bonds having the following novel properties: (i) their formation/dissociation can be controlled by tuning the redox conditions, (ii) they do not require the support of any additional chemical agent for self-assembly, (iii) they have high stability due to the involvement of covalent interactions, (iv) the monomer is a small polypeptide chain which can be chemically synthesized or produced using simple recombinant methods and (v) they possess high inherent fluorescence and can thus be easily detected against a background of other proteins. In addition, the presence of an RGD motif in this polypeptide fragment offers avenues for novel biomedical applications. The RGD motif is known to be recognized by integrins. The design of such self-assembling polypeptide fragments containing an RGD motif can be utilized to enhance the efficacy of cancer therapeutics. Towards this end, we have investigated the structural basis of formation of these nanotubular structures by NMR spectroscopy and proposed its application for cancer cell imaging.||en_US