Protein cargo appears to traverse the bacterial cell membrane through a large, water filled channel
Bacteria have plenty of things to send out into world beyond their own boundaries: coordinating signals to other members of their species, poisons for their enemies, and devious instructions to manipulate host cells they have infected. Before any of this can occur, however, they must first get the shipments past their own cell membranes, and many bacteria have evolved specialized structures and systems for launching the proteins that do these jobs.
Laboratory of Membrane Biology and Biophysics
A watert passage: The pump, a single-molecule machine, (yellow coils) carries proteins through the cell membrane (pink and dark blue). Within the pump, the researchers found a large water-filled channel (light blue), a natural environment for hydrophilic proteins.
Researchers at The Rockefeller University have determined the structure of a simple but previously unexamined pump that controls the passage of proteins through a bacterial cell membrane, an achievement that offers new insight into the mechanics that allow bacteria to manipulate their environments. The results were published in Nature on July 23.
“This pump, called PCAT for peptidase-containing ATP-binding cassette transporter, is composed of a single protein, a sort of all-in-one machine capable of recognizing its cargo, processing it, then burning chemical fuel to pump that cargo out of the cell,” says study author Jue Chen, William E. Ford Professor and head of the Laboratory of Membrane Biology and Biophysics. “This new atomic-level structure explains for the first time the links between these three functions.”
Of the many types of molecules cells need to move into and out of their membranes, proteins are the largest. PCATs specialize in pumping proteins out of the cell, and, because they are single-molecule machines that work alone, or with two partner proteins in some bacteria, they are the simplest such systems.
Each PCAT molecule has three domains, each in duplicate: one recognizes the cargo by a tag it carries, and cuts off that tag; another binds to and burns ATP, a molecule that contains energy stored within its atomic bonds; and the third forms a channel that spans the cells membrane. Previous work had examined the structure of the first two domains, but the structure of the third, had remained a mystery, along with the details of how the components function together.
“At this point, we have no idea how many PCATs exist, although we expect they are numerous, because each specializes in a specific type of cargo. For this study, we focused on one we called PCAT1, which transports a small protein of unknown function,” says first author David Yin-wei Lin, a postdoc in the lab. “To get a sense of how PCAT1 changes shape when powered by energy from ATP, we examined the structure in two states, both with and without ATP.”
The team, which also included Shuo Huang, a research technician who is now a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology, purified and crystalized the PCAT1 protein from the heat-loving bacterium Clostridium thermocellum. To determine the structure of the crystals, they used a technique called X-ray diffraction analysis, in which a pattern produced by X-rays bounced off the crystallized protein can be used to infer the structure of the molecule.
The first structure, determined without ATP, revealed a striking feature: a large, water-filled central channel, a natural environment for a water-loving, or hydrophilic, protein. Two side openings into this channel were guarded by the cargo-recognizing domain, acting as a sort of ticket taker. Sites on this domain would recognize and clip off the cargo’s tag, before ushering the protein into the channel.
When ATP is present, they found that the side entrances close, freeing the cargo-recognizing domain to move from its station outside of them. In addition, the ATP-binding domains at the bottom of the channel inside the cell come together. The researchers also saw the water channel shrink, leading them to hypothesize that energy from ATP allows PCAT1 to change conformation in such a way that it pushes its cargo out. This suggests that PCAT1 uses a strategy commonly seen in transport proteins known as alternate access, in which one end of the channel is open while the other closes. However, they qualify that PCATs that transport much larger proteins may function differently.
“By visualizing the structure of this pump, we have been able to determine the details of a transport pathway that, in its simplicity, is fundamentally different from the more complex systems that have been closely studied before. This new information adds to the understanding of how cells send out proteins in order to interact with their environment,” Chen says.
Wynne Parry | newswise
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences