Structural Studies On Mycobacterium Smegmatis Dps Molecules
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Oxidative stress is a universal phenomenon experienced by both aerobic and anaerobic organisms. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated during the stress, which can damage most cellular components including proteins, lipids and DNA. Naturally, organisms have evolved defence mechanisms to prevent oxidative damage. In prokaryotic systems, Dps (DNA binding protein from stationary phase cells) forms an important component of the mechanisms. Dps is known to be produced maximally during the stationary phase of bacterial growth. They exhibit ferroxidase activity as well. Dps homologs have been identified in a variety of distantly related bacteria, thus implying that this protein has a crucial function. The crystal structures of these proteins from a few bacteria are available. The work reported here is concerned with structural studies on Dps molecules from Mycobacterium smegmatis. Well-established X-ray crystallographic techniques were used to study the structures reported here. Hanging drop vapour diffusion and microbatch methods were used for crystallization. X-ray intensity data were collected on MAR Research imaging plates mounted on Rigaku X-ray generators. The data were processed using the HKL program suite. All the structures were solved by the molecular replacement method using the programs AMoRe and PHASER. Structure refinements were carried out using the programs CNS and REFMAC. Model building was carried out using FRODO and COOT. PROCHECK, ALIGN, INSIGHT, NACCESS, HBPLUS, CONTACT and ESCET were used for validation and analysis of the refined structures. Figures were prepared using MOLSCRIPT, BOBSCRIPT, RASTER3D and PYMOL. The structure of the first Dps identified in M. smegmatis has been determined in three crystal forms and has been compared with those of similar proteins from other sources. The dodecameric molecule can be described as a distorted icosahedron. The interfaces among subunits are such that the dodecameric molecule appears to have been made up of stable trimers. The situation is similar in the proteins from Escherichia coli and Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which are closer to the M. smegmatis protein in sequence and structure than those from other sources, which appear to form a dimer first. Trimerisation is aided in the three proteins by the additional N-terminal stretches they possess. The M. smegmatis protein has an additional C-terminal stretch compared to other related proteins. The stretch, known to be involved in DNA binding, is situated on the surface of the molecule. A comparison of the available structures permits a delineation of the rigid and flexible regions in the molecule. The subunit interfaces around the molecular dyads, where the ferroxidation centres are located, are relatively rigid. Regions in the vicinity of the acidic holes centred around molecular threefold axes, are relatively flexible. So are the DNA binding regions. The crystal structures of the protein from M. smegmatis confirm that DNA molecules can occupy spaces within the crystal without disturbing the arrangement of the protein molecules. However, contrary to earlier suggestions, the spaces need not to be between layers of the protein molecules. The cubic form provides an arrangement in which grooves, which could hold DNA molecules, criss-cross the crystal. M. smegmatis Dps is characterised by a 26 residue C-terminal tail which has been shown to be involved in DNA binding. The protein spontaneously degrades into a species in which 16 C-terminal residues are cleaved away. This species does not bind DNA, but forms dodecamers. A second species in which all the 26 residues constituting the tail were deleted not only does not bind to DNA, but also fails to assemble into dodecamers, indicating a role in assembly also for the C terminal tail. Therefore, the crystal structure of the species without the entire C-terminal tail was carried out. The molecule of the C-terminal mutant has an unusual open decameric structure, resulting from the removal of two adjacent subunits from the original dodecameric structure of the native form. It has been earlier shown that a Dps dodecamer could assemble with a dimer or one of two trimers (Trimer-A and Trimer-B) as intermediate and that Trimer-A is the intermediate species in the M. smegmatis protein. Estimation of surface area buried on trimerisation indicates that association within Trimer-B is weak. It further weakens when the C-terminal tail is removed, leading to the disruption of the dodecameric structure. Thus, the C-terminal tail has a dual role, one in DNA binding and the other in the assembly of the dodecamer. M. smegmatis Dps also has a short N-terminal tail of 9 residues. A species with this tail deleted, forms trimers in solution, but not dodecamers unlike wild type M. smegmatis Dps, under the same conditions. The crystal structure of this N-terminal mutant was also determined. Unlike in solution, the N-terminal mutant forms dodecamers in the crystal. In native Dps, the N-terminal stretch of one subunit and the C-terminal stretch of a neighbouring subunit lock each other into ordered positions. The deletion of one stretch results in the disorder of the other. This disorder appears to result in the formation of a trimeric species of the N-terminal deletion mutant contrary to the indication provided by the native structure. The ferroxidation site is intact in the mutants. A second DNA binding protein from stationary phase cells of M. smegmatis (MsDps2) has been identified from the bacterial genome and its crystal structure determined. The core dodecameric structure of MsDps2 is the same as that of the Dps from the organism described earlier (MsDps1). However, MsDps2 possesses a long N-terminal tail instead of the C-terminal tail in MsDps1. This tail appears to be involved in DNA binding. It is also intimately involved in stabilizing the dodecamer. Partly on account of this factor, MsDps2 assembles straightway into the dodecamer while MsDps1 does so on incubation after going through an intermediate trimeric stage. The ferroxidation centre is similar in the two proteins while the pores leading to it exhibit some difference. The mode of sequestration of DNA in the crystalline array of molecules, as evidenced by the crystal structures, appears to be different in MsDps1 and MsDps2, highlighting the variability in the mode of Dps-DNA complexation. A sequence search led to the identification of 300 Dps molecules in bacteria with known genome sequences. 50 bacteria contain 2 or more types of Dps molecules each, while 195 contain only one type. Some bacteria, notably some pathogenic ones, do not contain Dps. A sequence signature for Dps could also be derived from the analysis In addition to the work on Dps molecules, the author was also involved in studies on the crystal structures of the adipic acid complexes of L- and DL-arginine and supramolecular association in arginine-dicarboxylic acid complexes. This investigation, carried out primarily to obtain a good grounding in crystallography, is presented in an appendix.