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3 Publications

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    11/13/07 | Intraspecies regulation of ribonucleolytic activity.
    Johnson RJ, Lavis LD, Raines RT
    Biochemistry. 2007 Nov 13;46:13131-40. doi: 10.1021/bi701521q

    The evolutionary rate of proteins involved in obligate protein-protein interactions is slower and the degree of coevolution higher than that for nonobligate protein-protein interactions. The coevolution of the proteins involved in certain nonobligate interactions is, however, essential to cell survival. To gain insight into the coevolution of one such nonobligate protein pair, the cytosolic ribonuclease inhibitor (RI) proteins and secretory pancreatic-type ribonucleases from cow (Bos taurus) and human (Homo sapiens) were produced in Escherichia coli and purified, and their physicochemical properties were analyzed. The two intraspecies complexes were found to be extremely tight (bovine Kd = 0.69 fM; human Kd = 0.34 fM). Human RI binds to its cognate ribonuclease (RNase 1) with 100-fold greater affinity than to the bovine homologue (RNase A). In contrast, bovine RI binds to RNase 1 and RNase A with nearly equal affinity. This broader specificity is consistent with there being more pancreatic-type ribonucleases in cows (20) than humans (13). Human RI (32 cysteine residues) also has 4-fold less resistance to oxidation by hydrogen peroxide than does bovine RI (29 cysteine residues). This decreased oxidative stability of human RI, which is caused largely by Cys74, implies a larger role for human RI as an antioxidant. The conformational and oxidative stabilities of both RIs increase upon complex formation with ribonucleases. Thus, RI has evolved to maintain its inhibition of invading ribonucleases, even when confronted with extreme environmental stress. That role appears to take precedence over its role in mediating oxidative damage.

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    09/11/07 | Cytotoxic ribonucleases: the dichotomy of Coulombic forces.
    Johnson RJ, Chao T, Lavis LD, Raines RT
    Biochemistry. 2007 Sep 11;46(36):10308-16. doi: 10.1021/bi700857u

    Cells tightly regulate their contents. Still, nonspecific Coulombic interactions between cationic molecules and anionic membrane components can lead to adventitious endocytosis. Here, we characterize this process in a natural system. To do so, we create variants of human pancreatic ribonuclease (RNase 1) that differ in net molecular charge. By conjugating a small-molecule latent fluorophore to these variants and using flow cytometry, we are able to determine the kinetic mechanism for RNase 1 internalization into live human cells. We find that internalization increases with solution concentration and is not saturable. Internalization also increases with time to a steady-state level, which varies linearly with molecular charge. In contrast, the rate constant for internalization (t1/2 = 2 h) is independent of charge. We conclude that internalization involves an extracellular equilibrium complex between the cationic proteins and abundant anionic cell-surface molecules, followed by rate-limiting internalization. The enhanced internalization of more cationic variants of RNase 1 is, however, countered by their increased affinity for the cytosolic ribonuclease inhibitor protein, which is anionic. Thus, Coulombic forces mediate extracellular and intracellular equilibria in a dichotomous manner that both endangers cells and defends them from the potentially lethal enzymatic activity of ribonucleases.

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    09/01/07 | Tuning the pK(a) of fluorescein to optimize binding assays.
    Lavis LD, Rutkoski TJ, Raines RT
    Analytical Chemistry. 2007 Sep 1;79(17):6775-82. doi: 10.1021/ac070907g

    The phenolic pKa of fluorescein varies depending on its environment. The fluorescence of the dye varies likewise. Accordingly, a change in fluorescence can report on the association of a fluorescein conjugate to another molecule. Here, we demonstrate how to optimize this process with chemical synthesis. The fluorescence of fluorescein-labeled model protein, bovine pancreatic ribonuclease (RNase A), decreases upon binding to its cognate inhibitor protein (RI). Free and RI-bound fluorescein-RNase A have pKa values of 6.35 and 6.70, respectively, leaving the fluorescein moiety largely unprotonated at physiological pH and thus limiting the sensitivity of the assay. To increase the fluorescein pKa and, hence, the assay sensitivity, we installed an electron-donating alkyl group ortho to each phenol group. 2ā€™,7ā€™-Diethylfluorescein (DEF) has spectral properties similar to those of fluorescein but a higher phenolic pKa. Most importantly, free and RI-bound DEF-RNase A have pKa values of 6.68 and 7.29, respectively, resulting in a substantial increase in the sensitivity of the assay. Using DEF-RNase A rather than fluorescein-RNase A in a microplate assay at pH 7.12 increased the Zā€™-factor from -0.17 to 0.69. We propose that synthetic "tuning" of the pKa of fluorescein and other pH-sensitive fluorophores provides a general means to optimize binding assays.

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