skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 1, 2023

Title: Exploring the Effect of Mechanical Anisotropy of Protein Structures in the Unfoldase Mechanism of AAA+ Molecular Machines
Essential cellular processes of microtubule disassembly and protein degradation, which span lengths from tens of μm to nm, are mediated by specialized molecular machines with similar hexameric structure and function. Our molecular simulations at atomistic and coarse-grained scales show that both the microtubule-severing protein spastin and the caseinolytic protease ClpY, accomplish spectacular unfolding of their diverse substrates, a microtubule lattice and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), by taking advantage of mechanical anisotropy in these proteins. Unfolding of wild-type DHFR requires disruption of mechanically strong β-sheet interfaces near each terminal, which yields branched pathways associated with unzipping along soft directions and shearing along strong directions. By contrast, unfolding of circular permutant DHFR variants involves single pathways due to softer mechanical interfaces near terminals, but translocation hindrance can arise from mechanical resistance of partially unfolded intermediates stabilized by β-sheets. For spastin, optimal severing action initiated by pulling on a tubulin subunit is achieved through specific orientation of the machine versus the substrate (microtubule lattice). Moreover, changes in the strength of the interactions between spastin and a microtubule filament, which can be driven by the tubulin code, lead to drastically different outcomes for the integrity of the hexameric structure of the machine.
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1950244 1817948 2136816 1516918
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Microtubules, cylindrical assemblies of tubulin proteins with a 25 nm diameter and micrometer lengths, are a central part of the cytoskeleton and also serve as building blocks for nanobiodevices. Microtubule breaking can result from the activity of severing enzymes and mechanical stress. Breaking can lead to a loss of structural integrity, or an increase in the numbers of microtubules. We observed breaking of taxol-stabilized microtubules in a gliding motility assay where microtubules are propelled by surface-adhered kinesin-1 motor proteins. We find that over 95% of all breaking events are associated with the strong bending following pinning events (where the leading tip of the microtubule becomes stuck). Furthermore, the breaking rate increased exponentially with increasing curvature. These observations are explained by a model accounting for the complex mechanochemistry of a microtubule. The presence of severing enzymes is not required to observe breaking at rates comparable to those measured previously in cells.

  2. Abstract

    Microtubules are severed by katanin at distinct cellular locations to facilitate reorientation or amplification of dynamic microtubule arrays, but katanin targeting mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we show that a centrosomal microtubule-anchoring complex is used to recruit katanin in acentrosomal plant cells. The conserved protein complex of Msd1 (also known as SSX2IP) and Wdr8 is localized at microtubule nucleation sites along the microtubule lattice in interphase Arabidopsis cells. Katanin is recruited to these sites for efficient release of newly formed daughter microtubules. Our cell biological and genetic studies demonstrate that Msd1-Wdr8 acts as a specific katanin recruitment factor to cortical nucleation sites (but not to microtubule crossover sites) and stabilizes the association of daughter microtubule minus ends to their nucleation sites until they become severed by katanin. Molecular coupling of sequential anchoring and severing events by the evolutionarily conserved complex renders microtubule release under tight control of katanin activity.

  3. Sjögren’s syndrome nuclear autoantigen-1 (SSNA1/NA14) is a microtubule-associated protein with important functions in cilia, dividing cells, and developing neurons. However, the direct effects of SSNA1 on microtubules are not known. We employed in vitro reconstitution with purified proteins and TIRF microscopy to investigate the activity of human SSNA1 on dynamic microtubule ends and lattices. Our results show that SSNA1 modulates all parameters of microtubule dynamic instability—slowing down the rates of growth, shrinkage, and catastrophe, and promoting rescue. We find that SSNA1 forms stretches along growing microtubule ends and binds cooperatively to the microtubule lattice. Furthermore, SSNA1 is enriched on microtubule damage sites, occurring both naturally, as well as induced by the microtubule severing enzyme spastin. Finally, SSNA1 binding protects microtubules against spastin’s severing activity. Taken together, our results demonstrate that SSNA1 is both a potent microtubule-stabilizing protein and a novel sensor of microtubule damage; activities that likely underlie SSNA1’s functions on microtubule structures in cells.
  4. Multiple gram-negative bacteria encode type III secretion systems (T3SS) that allow them to inject effector proteins directly into host cells to facilitate colonization. To be secreted, effector proteins must be at least partially unfolded to pass through the narrow needle-like channel (diameter <2 nm) of the T3SS. Fusion of effector proteins to tightly packed proteins—such as GFP, ubiquitin, or dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR)—impairs secretion and results in obstruction of the T3SS. Prior observation that unfolding can become rate-limiting for secretion has led to the model that T3SS effector proteins have low thermodynamic stability, facilitating their secretion. Here, we first show that the unfolding free energy ( Δ G unfold 0 ) of two Salmonella effector proteins, SptP and SopE2, are 6.9 and 6.0 kcal/mol, respectively, typical for globular proteins and similar to published Δ G unfold 0 for GFP, ubiquitin, and DHFR. Next, we mechanically unfolded individual SptP and SopE2 molecules by atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force spectroscopy. SptP and SopE2 unfolded at low force ( F unfold ≤ 17 pN at 100 nm/s), making them among the most mechanically labile proteins studied to date by AFM. Moreover, their mechanical compliance is large, as measured by the distance to the transitionmore »state (Δ x ‡ = 1.6 and 1.5 nm for SptP and SopE2, respectively). In contrast, prior measurements of GFP, ubiquitin, and DHFR show them to be mechanically robust ( F unfold > 80 pN) and brittle (Δ x ‡ < 0.4 nm). These results suggest that effector protein unfolding by T3SS is a mechanical process and that mechanical lability facilitates efficient effector protein secretion.« less
  5. Binding-induced mechanical stabilization plays key roles in proteins involved in muscle contraction, cellular mechanotransduction, or bacterial adhesion. Because of the vector nature of force, single-molecule force spectroscopy techniques are ideal for measuring the mechanical unfolding of proteins. However, current approaches are still prone to calibration errors between experiments and geometrical variations between individual tethers. Here, we introduce a single-molecule assay based on magnetic tweezers and heterocovalent attachment, which can measure the binding of the substrate–ligand using the same protein molecule. We demonstrate this approach with protein L, a model bacterial protein which has two binding interfaces for the same region of kappa-light chain antibody ligands. Engineered molecules with eight identical domains of protein L between a HaloTag and a SpyTag were exposed to repeated unfolding–refolding cycles at forces up to 100 pN for several hours at a time. The unfolding behavior of the same protein was measured in solution buffers with different concentrations of antibody ligands. With increasing antibody concentration, an increasing number of protein L domains became more stable, indicative of ligand binding and mechanical reinforcement. Interestingly, the dissociation constant of the mechanically reinforced states coincides with that measured for the low-avidity binding interface of protein L, suggesting amore »physiological role for the second binding interface. The molecular approach presented here opens the road to a new type of binding experiments, where the same molecule can be exposed to different solvents or ligands.« less