The Dynamics of Iron in Miniferritins : A Structure-Function Connection
Williams, Sunanda Margrett
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The DNA binding proteins under starvation (Dps) from M. smegmatis are cage-like structures which internalize iron and bind DNA. They provide resistance to the cells from free radical damage, and physically protect the DNA from the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species by DNA compaction. The work compiled in this thesis has been an effort to study oligomerization and dynamics of iron metabolism by these nano-protein compartments. Chapter 1 gives a general introduction on stress, especially oxidative stress, and the ways bacteria fight back the host resistance systems. This has been elaborated from the point of view of the Dps proteins which is the focus of our work. Also, the competition for iron among the host and pathogens, and the modes of iron trafficking of the pathogens from host organisms has been summarized. Finally, the structural aspects of ferritin family proteins to which Dps belongs, has been discussed. Chapter 2 elaborates on the oligomerization pathways of the first M. smegmatis Dps MsDps1, which exists in vitro as two oligomeric forms. The GFP-tagging has been used to locate the Dps1 proteins by live cell imaging and the over-expression of these proteins during nutrient limiting conditions has been studied. The crystal structure of a point mutant F47E in the background of MsDps1, which shows no dodecamerization in vitro, has been solved. The possible ways of dodecamerization of MsDps1 has been concluded by analyzing the intermediates via glutaraldehyde cross-linking and native electrospray mass spectrometry. Chapter 3 documents the gating machinery of iron in MsDps2 protein, the second M. smegmatis Dps protein. Through graph theoretical approaches, a tight histidine-aspartate cluster was identified at the ferritin-like trimeric pore which harbors the channel for the entry and exit of iron. Sitespecific variants of MsDps2 were generated to disrupt this ionic knot, and the mutants were further assayed for ferroxidation, iron uptake and iron release properties. Our studies in MsDps2 show the importance of counter-acting positive and negatively charged residues for efficient assimilation and dispersion of iron. Chapter 4 describes crystallization studies of MsDps2 pore variants, done in an attempt to connect the changes in functional properties described in chapter 3, with structural alterations of the point mutants. We show here that the gating mechanism happens by alterations in side chain configuration at the pore and does not alter the over-all stability of the proteins. Chapter 5 is the final section where we have employed site specific mutations and cocrystallization studies to elucidate the behaviour of MsDps2 proteins upon the addition of iron. By studying the effect of substitutions at conserved sites near ferroxidation center, we attempt to arrive at a pathway which iron atoms take to reach the ferroxidation site. Also, by crystallization of proteins loaded with varying amounts of iron we tried to map the changes in the protein structure in the presence of its ligand. Chapter 6 concludes briefly the work that has been documented in this thesis. Appendix I relates the role of N-terminal tail for DNA binding in MsDp2. Appendix II gives the technical details of a modified protein preparation and oligomerization process for his-tagged MsDps1 protein. Appendix III gives the maps of the plasmids used in this study.
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