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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 13, 2024
  3. Mitochondria import nearly all of their approximately 1,000–2,000 constituent proteins from the cytosol across their double-membrane envelope1,2,3,4,5. Genetic and biochemical studies have shown that the conserved protein translocase, termed the TIM23 complex, mediates import of presequence-containing proteins (preproteins) into the mitochondrial matrix and inner membrane. Among about ten different subunits of the TIM23 complex, the essential multipass membrane protein Tim23, together with the evolutionarily related protein Tim17, has long been postulated to form a protein-conducting channel6,7,8,9,10,11. However, the mechanism by which these subunits form a translocation path in the membrane and enable the import process remains unclear due to a lack of structural information. Here we determined the cryo-electron microscopy structure of the core TIM23 complex (heterotrimeric Tim17–Tim23–Tim44) from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Contrary to the prevailing model, Tim23 and Tim17 themselves do not form a water-filled channel, but instead have separate, lipid-exposed concave cavities that face in opposite directions. Our structural and biochemical analyses show that the cavity of Tim17, but not Tim23, forms the protein translocation path, whereas Tim23 probably has a structural role. The results further suggest that, during translocation of substrate polypeptides, the nonessential subunit Mgr2 seals the lateral opening of the Tim17 cavity to facilitate the translocation process. We propose a new model for the TIM23-mediated protein import and sorting mechanism, a central pathway in mitochondrial biogenesis. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 21, 2024
  4. Amon, Cristina (Ed.)
    Abstract Methane clathrates on continental margins contain the largest stores of hydrocarbons on Earth, yet the role of biomolecules in clathrate formation and stability remains almost completely unknown. Here, we report new methane clathrate-binding proteins (CbpAs) of bacterial origin discovered in metagenomes from gas clathrate-bearing ocean sediments. CbpAs show similar suppression of methane clathrate growth as the commercial gas clathrate inhibitor polyvinylpyrrolidone and inhibit clathrate growth at lower concentrations than antifreeze proteins (AFPs) previously tested. Unlike AFPs, CbpAs are selective for clathrate over ice. CbpA3 adopts a nonglobular, extended structure with an exposed hydrophobic surface, and, unexpectedly, its TxxxAxxxAxx motif common to AFPs is buried and not involved in clathrate binding. Instead, simulations and mutagenesis suggest a bipartite interaction of CbpAs with methane clathrate, with the pyrrolidine ring of a highly conserved proline residue mediating binding by filling empty clathrate cages. The discovery that CbpAs exert such potent control on methane clathrate properties implies that biomolecules from native sediment bacteria may be important for clathrate stability and habitability. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  5. Recent studies in polymer physics have created macro-scale analogs to solute microscopic polymer chains like DNA by inducing diffusive motion on a chain of beads. These bead chains have persistence lengths of O(10) links and undergo diffusive motion under random fluctuations like vibration. We present a bead chain model within a new stochastic forcing system: an air fluidizing bed of granular media. A chain of spherical 6 mm resin beads crimped onto silk thread are buffeted randomly by the multiphase flow of grains and low density rising air “bubbles”. We “thermalize” bead chains of various lengths at different fluidizing airflow rates, while X-ray imaging captures a projection of the chains’ dynamics within the media. With modern 3D printing techniques, we can better represent complex polymers by geometrically varying bead connections and their relative strength, e.g., mimicking the variable stiffness between adjacent nucleotide pairs of DNA. We also develop Discrete Element Method (DEM) simulations to study the 3D motion of the bead chain, where the bead chain is represented by simulated spherical particles connected by linear and angular spring-like bonds. In experiment, we find that the velocity distributions of the beads follow exponential distributions rather than the Gaussian distributions expected from polymers in solution. Through use of the DEM simulation, we find that this difference can likely be attributed to the distributions of the forces imparted onto the chain from the fluidized bed environment. We anticipate expanding this study in the future to explore a wide range of chain composition and confinement geometry, which will provide insights into the physics of large biopolymers. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 29, 2024
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  7. Abstract The hybridization and dehybridization of DNA subject to tension is relevant to fundamental genetic processes and to the design of DNA-based mechanobiology assays. While strong tension accelerates DNA melting and decelerates DNA annealing, the effects of tension weaker than 5 pN are less clear. In this study, we developed a DNA bow assay, which uses the bending rigidity of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) to exert weak tension on a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) target in the range of 2–6 pN. Combining this assay with single-molecule FRET, we measured the hybridization and dehybridization kinetics between a 15 nt ssDNA under tension and a 8–9  nt oligonucleotide, and found that both the hybridization and dehybridization rates monotonically increase with tension for various nucleotide sequences tested. These findings suggest that the nucleated duplex in its transition state is more extended than the pure dsDNA or ssDNA counterpart. Based on coarse-grained oxDNA simulations, we propose that this increased extension of the transition state is due to steric repulsion between the unpaired ssDNA segments in close proximity to one another. Using linear force-extension relations verified by simulations of short DNA segments, we derived analytical equations for force-to-rate conversion that are in good agreement with our measurements. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 3, 2024
  8. Abstract

    Membrane efflux pumps play a major role in bacterial multidrug resistance. The tripartite multidrug efflux pump system fromEscherichia coli, AcrAB-TolC, is a target for inhibition to lessen resistance development and restore antibiotic efficacy, with homologs in other ESKAPE pathogens. Here, we rationalize a mechanism of inhibition against the periplasmic adaptor protein, AcrA, using a combination of hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, cellular efflux assays, and molecular dynamics simulations. We define the structural dynamics of AcrA and find that an inhibitor can inflict long-range stabilisation across all four of its domains, whereas an interacting efflux substrate has minimal effect. Our results support a model where an inhibitor forms a molecular wedge within a cleft between the lipoyl and αβ barrel domains of AcrA, diminishing its conformational transmission of drug-evoked signals from AcrB to TolC. This work provides molecular insights into multidrug adaptor protein function which could be valuable for developing antimicrobial therapeutics.

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  9. Abstract The trimeric spike (S) glycoprotein, which protrudes from the SARS-CoV-2 viral envelope, binds to human ACE2, initiated by at least one protomer’s receptor binding domain (RBD) switching from a "down” (closed) to an "up” (open) state. Here, we used large-scale molecular dynamics simulations and two-dimensional replica exchange umbrella sampling calculations with more than a thousand windows and an aggregate total of 160 μ s of simulation to investigate this transition with and without glycans. We find that the glycosylated spike has a higher barrier to opening and also energetically favors the down state over the up state. Analysis of the S-protein opening pathway reveals that glycans at N165 and N122 interfere with hydrogen bonds between the RBD and the N-terminal domain in the up state, while glycans at N165 and N343 can stabilize both the down and up states. Finally, we estimate how epitope exposure for several known antibodies changes along the opening path. We find that the BD-368-2 antibody’s epitope is continuously exposed, explaining its high efficacy. 
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  10. Bäumler, Andreas J. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT TonB-dependent transporters (TDTs) are essential proteins for metal acquisition, an important step in the growth and pathogenesis of many pathogens, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae , the causative agent of gonorrhea. There is currently no available vaccine for gonorrhea; TDTs are being investigated as vaccine candidates because they are highly conserved and expressed in vivo . Transferrin binding protein A (TbpA) is an essential virulence factor in the initiation of experimental infection in human males and functions by acquiring iron upon binding to host transferrin (human transferrin [hTf]). The loop 3 helix (L3H) is a helix finger that inserts into the hTf C-lobe and is required for hTf binding and subsequent iron acquisition. This study identified and characterized the first TbpA single-point substitutions resulting in significantly decreased hTf binding and iron acquisition, suggesting that the helix structure is more important than charge for hTf binding and utilization. The tbpA D355P Δ tbpB and tbpA A356P Δ tbpB mutants demonstrated significantly reduced hTf binding and impaired iron uptake from Fe-loaded hTf; however, only the tbpA A356P Δ tbpB mutant was able to grow when hTf was the sole source of iron. The expression of tbpB was able to restore function in all tbpA mutants. These results implicate both D355 and A356 in the key binding, extraction, and uptake functions of gonococcal TbpA. 
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