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4 Publications

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    09/01/12 | The structural basis for the narrow substrate specificity of an acetyl esterase from Thermotoga maritima.
    Hedge MK, Gehring AM, Adkins CT, Weston LA, Lavis LD, Johnson RJ
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 2012 Sep;1824(9):1024-30. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2012.05.009

    Acetyl esterases from carbohydrate esterase family 7 exhibit unusual substrate specificity. These proteins catalyze the cleavage of disparate acetate esters with high efficiency, but are unreactive to larger acyl groups. The structural basis for this distinct selectivity profile is unknown. Here, we investigate a thermostable acetyl esterase (TM0077) from Thermotoga maritima using evolutionary relationships, structural information, fluorescent kinetic measurements, and site directed mutagenesis. We measured the kinetic and structural determinants for this specificity using a diverse series of small molecule enzyme substrates, including novel fluorogenic esters. These experiments identified two hydrophobic plasticity residues (Pro228, and Ile276) surrounding the nucleophilic serine that impart this specificity of TM0077 for small, straight-chain esters. Substitution of these residues with alanine imparts broader specificity to TM0077 for the hydrolysis of longer and bulkier esters. Our results suggest the specificity of acetyl esterases have been finely tuned by evolution to catalyze the removal of acetate groups from diverse substrates, but can be modified by focused amino acid substitutions to yield enzymes capable of cleaving larger ester functionalities.

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    04/01/12 | A genetically encoded fluorescent protein in echinoderms marks the history of neuronal activity.
    Verdecia MA, Looger LL, Lavis L, Graumann J, Mandel G, Brehm P
    Luminescence. 2012 Apr;27:170

    Since the original identification of GFP from jellyfish and corals, the genetically encoded fluorescent proteins have become mainstream indicators for imaging. Functionally homologous candidates exist in more highly evolved bioluminescent invertebrates, including echinoderms. For example, in brittlestars, stimulus-evoked bioluminescence is transient, lasting seconds, and emanates from specialized cells (photocytes). Prior to light emission, we observe little or no green fluorescence. However, concurrent with light emission, an intense green, calcium-dependent fluorescence develops that persists indefinitely.

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    03/27/12 | Selective esterase-ester pair for targeting small molecules with cellular specificity.
    Tian L, Yang Y, Wysocki LM, Arnold AC, Hu A, Ravichandran B, Sternson SM, Looger LL, Lavis LD
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012 Mar 27;109:4756-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1111943109

    Small molecules are important tools to measure and modulate intracellular signaling pathways. A longstanding limitation for using chemical compounds in complex tissues has been the inability to target bioactive small molecules to a specific cell class. Here, we describe a generalizable esterase-ester pair capable of targeted delivery of small molecules to living cells and tissue with cellular specificity. We used fluorogenic molecules to rapidly identify a small ester masking motif that is stable to endogenous esterases, but is efficiently removed by an exogenous esterase. This strategy allows facile targeting of dyes and drugs in complex biological environments to label specific cell types, illuminate gap junction connectivity, and pharmacologically perturb distinct subsets of cells. We expect this approach to have general utility for the specific delivery of many small molecules to defined cellular populations.

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    02/22/12 | Excitation spectra and brightness optimization of two-photon excited probes.
    Mütze J, Iyer V, Macklin JJ, Colonell J, Karsh B, Petrá\v sek Ze, Schwille P, Looger LL, Lavis LD, Harris TD
    Biophysical Journal. 2012 Feb 22;102(4):934-44. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.12.056

    Two-photon probe excitation data are commonly presented as absorption cross section or molecular brightness (the detected fluorescence rate per molecule). We report two-photon molecular brightness spectra for a diverse set of organic and genetically encoded probes with an automated spectroscopic system based on fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The two-photon action cross section can be extracted from molecular brightness measurements at low excitation intensities, while peak molecular brightness (the maximum molecular brightness with increasing excitation intensity) is measured at higher intensities at which probe photophysical effects become significant. The spectral shape of these two parameters was similar across all dye families tested. Peak molecular brightness spectra, which can be obtained rapidly and with reduced experimental complexity, can thus serve as a first-order approximation to cross-section spectra in determining optimal wavelengths for two-photon excitation, while providing additional information pertaining to probe photostability. The data shown should assist in probe choice and experimental design for multiphoton microscopy studies. Further, we show that, by the addition of a passive pulse splitter, nonlinear bleaching can be reduced-resulting in an enhancement of the fluorescence signal in fluorescence correlation spectroscopy by a factor of two. This increase in fluorescence signal, together with the observed resemblance of action cross section and peak brightness spectra, suggests higher-order photobleaching pathways for two-photon excitation.

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