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ABSTRACT A major challenge for science educators is teaching foundational concepts while introducing their students to current research. Here we describe an active learning module developed to teach protein structure fundamentals while supporting ongoing research in enzyme discovery. It can be readily implemented in both entry-level and upper-division college biochemistry or biophysics courses. Preactivity lectures introduced fundamentals of protein secondary structure and provided context for the research projects, and a homework assignment familiarized students with 3-dimensional visualization of biomolecules with UCSF Chimera, a free protein structure viewer. The activity is an online survey in which students compare structure elements in papain, a well-characterized cysteine protease from Carica papaya, to novel homologous proteases identified from the genomes of an extremophilic microbe (Halanaerobium praevalens) and 2 carnivorous plants (Drosera capensis and Cephalotus follicularis). Students were then able to identify, with varying levels of accuracy, a number of structural features in cysteine proteases that could expedite the identification of novel or biochemically interesting cysteine proteases for experimental validation in a university laboratory. Student responses to a postactivity survey were largely positive and constructive, describing points in the activity that could be improved and indicating that the activity was an engaging way to learn about protein structure.more » « less
α-Crystallins are small heat-shock proteins that act as holdase chaperones. In humans, αA-crystallin is expressed only in the eye lens, while αB-crystallin is found in many tissues. α-Crystallins have a central domain flanked by flexible extensions and form dynamic, heterogeneous oligomers. Structural models show that both the C- and N-terminal extensions are important for controlling oligomerization through domain swapping. α-Crystallin prevents aggregation of damaged β- and γ-crystallins by binding to the client protein using a variety of binding modes. α-Crystallin chaperone activity can be compromised by mutation or posttranslational modifications, leading to protein aggregation and cataract. Because of their high solubility and their ability to form large, functional oligomers, α-crystallins are particularly amenable to structure determination by solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and solution NMR, as well as cryo-electron microscopy.more » « less
βγ‐Crystallins are the primary structural and refractive proteins found in the vertebrate eye lens. Because crystallins are not replaced after early eye development, their solubility and stability must be maintained for a lifetime, which is even more remarkable given the high protein concentration in the lens. Aggregation of crystallins caused by mutations or post‐translational modifications can reduce crystallin protein stability and alter intermolecular interactions. Common post‐translational modifications that can cause age‐related cataracts include deamidation, oxidation, and tryptophan derivatization. Metal ion binding can also trigger reduced crystallin solubility through a variety of mechanisms. Interprotein interactions are critical to maintaining lens transparency: crystallins can undergo domain swapping, disulfide bonding, and liquid‐liquid phase separation, all of which can cause opacity depending on the context. Important experimental techniques for assessing crystallin conformation in the absence of a high‐resolution structure include dye‐binding assays, circular dichroism, fluorescence, light scattering, and transition metal FRET.
The highly infectious disease COVID-19 caused by the Betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2 poses a severe threat to humanity and demands the redirection of scientific efforts and criteria to organized research projects. The international COVID19-NMR consortium seeks to provide such new approaches by gathering scientific expertise worldwide. In particular, making available viral proteins and RNAs will pave the way to understanding the SARS-CoV-2 molecular components in detail. The research in COVID19-NMR and the resources provided through the consortium are fully disclosed to accelerate access and exploitation. NMR investigations of the viral molecular components are designated to provide the essential basis for further work, including macromolecular interaction studies and high-throughput drug screening. Here, we present the extensive catalog of a holistic SARS-CoV-2 protein preparation approach based on the consortium’s collective efforts. We provide protocols for the large-scale production of more than 80% of all SARS-CoV-2 proteins or essential parts of them. Several of the proteins were produced in more than one laboratory, demonstrating the high interoperability between NMR groups worldwide. For the majority of proteins, we can produce isotope-labeled samples of HSQC-grade. Together with several NMR chemical shift assignments made publicly available on covid19-nmr.com , we here provide highly valuable resources for the production of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in isotope-labeled form.more » « less