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59 Janelia Publications

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    Gonen Lab
    05/12/13 | Crystal structure of a nitrate/nitrite exchanger.
    Zheng H, Wisedchaisri G, Gonen T
    Nature. 2013 May 12;497(7451):647-51. doi: 10.1038/nature12139

    Mineral nitrogen in nature is often found in the form of nitrate (NO3(-)). Numerous microorganisms evolved to assimilate nitrate and use it as a major source of mineral nitrogen uptake. Nitrate, which is central in nitrogen metabolism, is first reduced to nitrite (NO2(-)) through a two-electron reduction reaction. The accumulation of cellular nitrite can be harmful because nitrite can be reduced to the cytotoxic nitric oxide. Instead, nitrite is rapidly removed from the cell by channels and transporters, or reduced to ammonium or dinitrogen through the action of assimilatory enzymes. Despite decades of effort no structure is currently available for any nitrate transport protein and the mechanism by which nitrate is transported remains largely unknown. Here we report the structure of a bacterial nitrate/nitrite transport protein, NarK, from Escherichia coli, with and without substrate. The structures reveal a positively charged substrate-translocation pathway lacking protonatable residues, suggesting that NarK functions as a nitrate/nitrite exchanger and that protons are unlikely to be co-transported. Conserved arginine residues comprise the substrate-binding pocket, which is formed by association of helices from the two halves of NarK. Key residues that are important for substrate recognition and transport are identified and related to extensive mutagenesis and functional studies. We propose that NarK exchanges nitrate for nitrite by a rocker switch mechanism facilitated by inter-domain hydrogen bond networks.

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    Gonen Lab
    04/02/13 | Overview of electron crystallography of membrane proteins: crystallization and screening strategies using negative stain electron microscopy.
    Nannenga BL, Iadanza MG, Vollmar BS, Gonen T
    Current Protocols in Protein Science . 2013 Apr 2;Chapter 17:Unit 17.15. doi: 10.1002/0471140864.ps1715s72

    Electron cryomicroscopy, or cryoEM, is an emerging technique for studying the three-dimensional structures of proteins and large macromolecular machines. Electron crystallography is a branch of cryoEM in which structures of proteins can be studied at resolutions that rival those achieved by X-ray crystallography. Electron crystallography employs two-dimensional crystals of a membrane protein embedded within a lipid bilayer. The key to a successful electron crystallographic experiment is the crystallization, or reconstitution, of the protein of interest. This unit describes ways in which protein can be expressed, purified, and reconstituted into well-ordered two-dimensional crystals. A protocol is also provided for negative stain electron microscopy as a tool for screening crystallization trials. When large and well-ordered crystals are obtained, the structures of both protein and its surrounding membrane can be determined to atomic resolution.

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    Gonen Lab
    02/01/13 | HCV IRES manipulates the ribosome to promote the switch from translation initiation to elongation.
    Filbin ME, Vollmar BS, Shi D, Gonen T, Kieft JS
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 2013 Feb;20(2):150-8. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2465

    The internal ribosome entry site (IRES) of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) drives noncanonical initiation of protein synthesis necessary for viral replication. Functional studies of the HCV IRES have focused on 80S ribosome formation but have not explored its role after the 80S ribosome is poised at the start codon. Here, we report that mutations of an IRES domain that docks in the 40S subunit’s decoding groove cause only a local perturbation in IRES structure and result in conformational changes in the IRES-rabbit 40S subunit complex. Functionally, the mutations decrease IRES activity by inhibiting the first ribosomal translocation event, and modeling results suggest that this effect occurs through an interaction with a single ribosomal protein. The ability of the HCV IRES to manipulate the ribosome provides insight into how the ribosome’s structure and function can be altered by bound RNAs, including those derived from cellular invaders.

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    Gonen Lab
    01/01/13 | The collection of high-resolution electron diffraction data.
    Gonen T
    Methods in Molecular Biology. 2013;955:153-169. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-176-9_9

    A number of atomic-resolution structures of membrane proteins (better than 3Å resolution) have been determined recently by electron crystallography. While this technique was established more than 40 years ago, it is still in its infancy with regard to the two-dimensional (2D) crystallization, data collection, data analysis, and protein structure determination. In terms of data collection, electron crystallography encompasses both image acquisition and electron diffraction data collection. Other chapters in this volume outline protocols for image collection and analysis. This chapter, however, outlines detailed protocols for data collection by electron diffraction. These include microscope setup, electron diffraction data collection, and troubleshooting.

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    Gonen Lab
    08/12/12 | The structure of purified kinetochores reveals multiple microtubule-attachment sites.
    Gonen S, Akiyoshi B, Iadanza MG, Shi D, Duggan N, Biggins S, Gonen T
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 2012 Aug 12;19(9):925-9. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2358

    Chromosomes must be accurately partitioned to daughter cells to prevent aneuploidy, a hallmark of many tumors and birth defects. Kinetochores are the macromolecular machines that segregate chromosomes by maintaining load-bearing attachments to the dynamic tips of microtubules. Here, we present the structure of isolated budding-yeast kinetochore particles, as visualized by EM and electron tomography of negatively stained preparations. The kinetochore appears as an  126-nm particle containing a large central hub surrounded by multiple outer globular domains. In the presence of microtubules, some particles also have a ring that encircles the microtubule. Our data, showing that kinetochores bind to microtubules via multivalent attachments, lay the foundation to uncover the key mechanical and regulatory mechanisms by which kinetochores control chromosome segregation and cell division.

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    Gonen Lab
    08/01/12 | Recent progress in membrane protein structures and investigation methods.
    Gonen T, Waksman G
    Current Opinion in Structural Biology. 2012 Aug;22(4):467-8. doi: 10.1016/
    Gonen Lab
    06/01/12 | Computational design of self-assembling protein nanomaterials with atomic level accuracy.
    King NP, Sheffler W, Sawaya MR, Vollmar BS, Sumida JP, André I, Gonen T, Yeates TO, Baker D
    Science. 2012 Jun 1;336(6085):1171-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1219364

    We describe a general computational method for designing proteins that self-assemble to a desired symmetric architecture. Protein building blocks are docked together symmetrically to identify complementary packing arrangements, and low-energy protein-protein interfaces are then designed between the building blocks in order to drive self-assembly. We used trimeric protein building blocks to design a 24-subunit, 13-nm diameter complex with octahedral symmetry and a 12-subunit, 11-nm diameter complex with tetrahedral symmetry. The designed proteins assembled to the desired oligomeric states in solution, and the crystal structures of the complexes revealed that the resulting materials closely match the design models. The method can be used to design a wide variety of self-assembling protein nanomaterials.

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    Gonen Lab
    04/05/12 | The influence of lipids on voltage-gated ion channels.
    Jiang Q, Gonen T
    Current Opinion in Structural Biology. 2012 Apr 5;22(4):529-36. doi: 10.1016/

    Voltage-gated ion channels are responsible for transmitting electrochemical signals in both excitable and non-excitable cells. Structural studies of voltage-gated potassium and sodium channels by X-ray crystallography have revealed atomic details on their voltage-sensor domains (VSDs) and pore domains, and were put in context of disparate mechanistic views on the voltage-driven conformational changes in these proteins. Functional investigation of voltage-gated channels in membranes, however, showcased a mechanism of lipid-dependent gating for voltage-gated channels, suggesting that the lipids play an indispensible and critical role in the proper gating of many of these channels. Structure determination of membrane-embedded voltage-gated ion channels appears to be the next frontier in fully addressing the mechanism by which the VSDs control channel opening. Currently electron crystallography is the only structural biology method in which a membrane protein of interest is crystallized within a complete lipid-bilayer mimicking the native environment of a biological membrane. At a sufficiently high resolution, an electron crystallographic structure could reveal lipids, the channel and their mutual interactions at the atomic level. Electron crystallography is therefore a promising avenue toward understanding how lipids modulate channel activation through close association with the VSDs.

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    Gonen Lab
    10/12/11 | Advances in structural and functional analysis of membrane proteins by electron crystallography.
    Wisedchaisri G, Reichow SL, Gonen T
    Structure. 2011 Oct 12;19(10):1381-93. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2011.09.001

    Electron crystallography is a powerful technique for the study of membrane protein structure and function in the lipid environment. When well-ordered two-dimensional crystals are obtained the structure of both protein and lipid can be determined and lipid-protein interactions analyzed. Protons and ionic charges can be visualized by electron crystallography and the protein of interest can be captured for structural analysis in a variety of physiologically distinct states. This review highlights the strengths of electron crystallography and the momentum that is building up in automation and the development of high throughput tools and methods for structural and functional analysis of membrane proteins by electron crystallography.

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