Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to the structural characterization of a human dopamine transporter mutation implicated in Parkinson disease

Abstract: Parkinson disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting over 6.1 million people worldwide. Although the cause of PD remains unclear, studies of highly penetrant mutations identified in early-onset familial parkinsonism have contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying disease pathology. Dopamine (DA) transporter (DAT) deficiency syndrome (DTDS) is a distinct type of infantile parkinsonism-dystonia that shares key clinical features with PD, including motor deficits (progressive bradykinesia, tremor, hypomimia) and altered DA neurotransmission. Here, we define structural, functional, and behavioral consequences of a Cys substitution at R445 in human DAT (hDAT R445C), identified in a patient with DTDS. We found that this R445 substitution disrupts a phylogenetically conserved intracellular (IC) network of interactions that compromise the hDAT IC gate. This is demonstrated by both Rosetta molecular modeling and fine-grained simulations using hDAT R445C, as well as EPR analysis and X-ray crystallography of the bacterial homolog leucine transporter. Notably, the disruption of this IC network of interactions supported a channel-like intermediate of hDAT and compromised hDAT function. We demonstrate that Drosophila melanogaster expressing hDAT R445C show impaired hDAT activity, which is associated with DA dysfunction in isolated brains and with abnormal behaviors monitored at high-speed time resolution. We show that hDAT R445C Drosophila exhibit motor deficits, lack of motor coordination (i.e. flight coordination) and phenotypic heterogeneity in these behaviors that is typically associated with DTDS and PD. These behaviors are linked with altered dopaminergic signaling stemming from loss of DA neurons and decreased DA availability. We rescued flight coordination with chloroquine, a lysosomal inhibitor that enhanced DAT expression in a heterologous expression system. Together, these studies shed some light on how a DTDS-linked DAT mutation underlies DA dysfunction and, possibly, clinical phenotypes shared by DTDS and PD.

(eLife 2021;10:e68039)

Cyrus scientists Brandon Frenz, Steven Lewis, Indigo King and CSO Yifan Song develop a new method for predicting protein mutational free energy

Abstract: Software to predict the change in protein stability upon point mutation is a valuable tool for a number of biotechnological and scientific problems. To facilitate the development of such software and provide easy access to the available experimental data, the ProTherm database was created. Biases in the methods and types of information collected has led to disparity in the types of mutations for which experimental data is available. For example, mutations to alanine are hugely overrepresented whereas those involving charged residues, especially from one charged residue to another, are underrepresented. ProTherm subsets created as benchmark sets that do not account for this often underrepresent tense certain mutational types. This issue introduces systematic biases into previously published protocols’ ability to accurately predict the change in folding energy on these classes of mutations. To resolve this issue, we have generated a new benchmark set with these problems corrected. We have then used the benchmark set to test a number of improvements to the point mutation energetics tools in the Rosetta software suite.

(Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol., 08 October 2020)

Cyrus Scientist Ryan Pavlovicz improves protein-protein and protein-ligand docking results through better explicit water modeling

Abstract: Highly coordinated water molecules are frequently an integral part of protein-protein and protein-ligand interfaces. We introduce an updated energy model that efficiently captures the energetic effects of these ordered water molecules on the surfaces of proteins. A two-stage method is developed in which polar groups arranged in geometries suitable for water placement are first identified, then a modified Monte Carlo simulation allows highly coordinated waters to be placed on the surface of a protein while simultaneously sampling amino acid side chain orientations. This “semi-explicit” water model is implemented in Rosetta and is suitable for both structure prediction and protein design. We show that our new approach and energy model yield significant improvements in native structure recovery of protein-protein and protein-ligand docking discrimination tests.

(PLoS Computational Biology)

Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to the modeling of the human KCNQ1 potassium channel using RosettaHM

Abstract: The voltage-gated potassium channel KCNQ1 (KV7.1) assembles with the KCNE1 accessory protein to generate the slow delayed rectifier current, IKS, which is critical for membrane repolarization as part of the cardiac action potential. Loss-of-function (LOF) mutations in KCNQ1 are the most common cause of congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS), type 1 LQTS, an inherited genetic predisposition to cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. A detailed structural understanding of KCNQ1 is needed to elucidate the molecular basis for KCNQ1 LOF in disease and to enable structure-guided design of new anti-arrhythmic drugs. In this work, advanced structural models of human KCNQ1 in the resting/closed and activated/open states were developed by Rosetta homology modeling guided by newly available experimentally-based templates: X. leavis KCNQ1 and various resting voltage sensor structures. Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, the capacity of the models to describe experimentally established channel properties including state-dependent voltage sensor gating charge interactions and pore conformations, PIP2 binding sites, and voltage sensor–pore domain interactions were validated. Rosetta energy calculations were applied to assess the utility of each model in interpreting mutation-evoked KCNQ1 dysfunction by predicting the change in protein thermodynamic stability for 50 experimentally characterized KCNQ1 variants with mutations located in the voltage-sensing domain. Energetic destabilization was successfully predicted for folding-defective KCNQ1 LOF mutants whereas wild type-like mutants exhibited no significant energetic frustrations, which supports growing evidence that mutation-induced protein destabilization is an especially common cause of KCNQ1 dysfunction. The new KCNQ1 Rosetta models provide helpful tools in the study of the structural basis for KCNQ1 function and can be used to generate hypotheses to explain KCNQ1 dysfunction.


Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to the structural modeling of mammalian translocator protein

Abstract: The translocator protein (TSPO), previously known as the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), is a membrane protein located on the outer mitochondrial membrane. Experimentally-derived structures of mouse TSPO (mTSPO) and its homologs from bacterial species have been determined by NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, respectively. These structures and ligand interactions within the TSPO binding pocket display distinct differences. Here, we leverage experimental and computational studies to derive a unified structural model of mTSPO in the presence and absence of the TSPO ligand, PK11195, and study the effects of DPC detergent micelles on the TSPO structure and ligand binding. From this work, we conclude that that the lipid-mimetic system used to solubilize mTSPO for NMR studies thermodynamically destabilizes the protein, introduces structural perturbations, and alters the characteristics of ligand binding. Furthermore, we used Rosetta to construct a unified mTSPO model that reconciles deviating features of the mammalian and bacterial TSPO. These deviating features are likely a consequence of the detergent system used for structure determination of mTSPO by NMR. The unified mTSPO model agrees with available experimental NMR data, appears to be physically realistic (i.e. thermodynamically not frustrated as judged by the Rosetta energy function), and simultaneously shares the structural features observed in sequence-conserved regions of the bacterial proteins. Finally, we identified the binding site for an imaging ligand VUIIS8310 that is currently positioned for clinical translation using NMR spectroscopy and propose a computational model of the VUIIS8310-mTSPO complex.

(Journal of Biomolecular NMR volume 73, 347–364 (2019))

Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to the structural modeling of human dopamine transporter delN336

Abstract: Mounting evidence suggests that rare genetic variations contribute to the genetic risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here, we describe the first ASD-associated in-frame deletion in the human dopamine (DA) transporter (hDAT) gene. This mutation results in the deletion of the conserved Asn336 (∆N336). By integrating molecular insights from X-ray crystallography, electron paramagnetic resonance, and electrophysiology, we uncovered a conformational state of the transporter promoted by ∆N336. It is defined by a “half-open and inward-facing” conformation of the intracellular gate that leads to specific dysfunctions in DA homeostasis as determined in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster expressing hDAT ∆N336. Importantly, hDAT ∆N336 flies display increased fear and impaired social interactions, traits associated with DA dysfunction and ASD.

(PNAS February 26, 2019 116 (9) 3853-3862)

Cyrus CEO Lucas Nivon contributes to the de novo design of a highly stable β-sheet protein

Abstract: β-sheet proteins carry out critical functions in biology, and hence are attractive scaffolds for computational protein design. Despite this potential, de novo design of all-β-sheet proteins from first principles lags far behind the design of all-α or mixed-αβ domains owing to their non-local nature and the tendency of exposed β-strand edges to aggregate. Through study of loops connecting unpaired β-strands (β-arches), we have identified a series of structural relationships between loop geometry, side chain directionality and β-strand length that arise from hydrogen bonding and packing constraints on regular β-sheet structures. We use these rules to de novo design jellyroll structures with double-stranded β-helices formed by eight antiparallel β-strands. The nuclear magnetic resonance structure of a hyperthermostable design closely matched the computational model, demonstrating accurate control over the β-sheet structure and loop geometry. Our results open the door to the design of a broad range of non-local β-sheet protein structures.

(Nature Structural & Molecular Biology volume 25, 1028–1034 (2018))

Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to the Characterization of Kir4.1 potassium channel pore blocker VU0134992

Abstract: The inward rectifier potassium (Kir) channel Kir4.1 (KCNJ10) carries out important physiologic roles in epithelial cells of the kidney, astrocytes in the central nervous system, and stria vascularis of the inner ear. Loss-of-function mutations in KCNJ10 lead to EAST/SeSAME syndrome, which is characterized by epilepsy, ataxia, renal salt wasting, and sensorineural deafness. Although genetic approaches have been indispensable for establishing the importance of Kir4.1 in the normal function of these tissues, the availability of pharmacological tools for acutely manipulating the activity of Kir4.1 in genetically normal animals has been lacking. We therefore carried out a high-throughput screen of 76,575 compounds from the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology library for small-molecule modulators of Kir4.1. The most potent inhibitor identified was 2-(2-bromo-4-isopropylphenoxy)-N-(2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin-4-yl)acetamide (VU0134992). In whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments, VU0134992 inhibits Kir4.1 with an IC50 value of 0.97 µM and is 9-fold selective for homomeric Kir4.1 over Kir4.1/5.1 concatemeric channels (IC50 = 9 µM) at −120 mV. In thallium (Tl+) flux assays, VU0134992 is greater than 30-fold selective for Kir4.1 over Kir1.1, Kir2.1, and Kir2.2; is weakly active toward Kir2.3, Kir6.2/SUR1, and Kir7.1; and is equally active toward Kir3.1/3.2, Kir3.1/3.4, and Kir4.2. This potency and selectivity profile is superior to Kir4.1 inhibitors amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and fluoxetine. Medicinal chemistry identified components of VU0134992 that are critical for inhibiting Kir4.1. Patch-clamp electrophysiology, molecular modeling, and site-directed mutagenesis identified pore-lining glutamate 158 and isoleucine 159 as critical residues for block of the channel. VU0134992 displayed a large free unbound fraction (fu) in rat plasma (fu = 0.213). Consistent with the known role of Kir4.1 in renal function, oral dosing of VU0134992 led to a dose-dependent diuresis, natriuresis, and kaliuresis in rats. Thus, VU0134992 represents the first in vivo active tool compound for probing the therapeutic potential of Kir4.1 as a novel diuretic target for the treatment of hypertension.

(Molecular Pharmacology August 2018, 94 (2) 926-937)

Cyrus Scientist Amanda Duran contributes to molecular models studying the mechanisms of mutations in KCNQ1

Abstract: Mutations that induce loss of function (LOF) or dysfunction of the human KCNQ1 channel are responsible for susceptibility to a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder, the congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS). Hundreds of KCNQ1 mutations have been identified, but the molecular mechanisms responsible for impaired function are poorly understood. We investigated the impact of 51 KCNQ1 variants with mutations located within the voltage sensor domain (VSD), with an emphasis on elucidating effects on cell surface expression, protein folding, and structure. For each variant, the efficiency of trafficking to the plasma membrane, the impact of proteasome inhibition, and protein stability were assayed. The results of these experiments combined with channel functional data provided the basis for classifying each mutation into one of six mechanistic categories, highlighting heterogeneity in the mechanisms resulting in channel dysfunction or LOF. More than half of the KCNQ1 LOF mutations examined were seen to destabilize the structure of the VSD, generally accompanied by mistrafficking and degradation by the proteasome, an observation that underscores the growing appreciation that mutation-induced destabilization of membrane proteins may be a common human disease mechanism. Finally, we observed that five of the folding-defective LQTS mutant sites are located in the VSD S0 helix, where they interact with a number of other LOF mutation sites in other segments of the VSD. These observations reveal a critical role for the S0 helix as a central scaffold to help organize and stabilize the KCNQ1 VSD and, most likely, the corresponding domain of many other ion channels.

(Science Advances  07 Mar 2018: Vol. 4, no. 3, eaar2631)

Yifan Song, Cyrus’ Chief Science Officer, contributes development to major aspects of Rosetta code for de novo design of hyperstable constrained peptides published in Nature

Article Abstract: Naturally occurring, pharmacologically active peptides constrained with covalent crosslinks generally have shapes that have evolved to fit precisely into binding pockets on their targets. Such peptides can have excellent pharmaceutical properties, combining the stability and tissue penetration of small-molecule drugs with the specificity of much larger protein therapeutics. The ability to design constrained peptides with precisely specified tertiary structures would enable the design of shape-complementary inhibitors of arbitrary targets. Here we describe the development of computational methods for accurate de novo design of conformationally restricted peptides, and the use of these methods to design 18–47 residue, disulfide-crosslinked peptides, a subset of which are heterochiral and/or N–C backbone-cyclized. Both genetically encodable and non-canonical peptides are exceptionally stable to thermal and chemical denaturation, and 12 experimentally determined X-ray and NMR structures are nearly identical to the computational design models. The computational design methods and stable scaffolds presented here provide the basis for development of a new generation of peptide-based drugs.

(Nature, vol. 538, p. 329-335, 2016)