Visualizations of biomolecular structures empower us to gain insights into biological functions, generate testable hypotheses, and communicate biological concepts. Typical visualizations (such as ball and stick) primarily depict covalent bonds. In contrast, non-covalent contacts between atoms, which govern normal physiology, pathogenesis, and drug action, are seldom visualized. We present the Protein Contacts Atlas, an interactive resource of non-covalent contacts from over 100,000 PDB crystal structures. We developed multiple representations for visualization and analysis of non-covalent contacts at different scales of organization: atoms, residues, secondary structure, subunits, and entire complexes. The Protein Contacts Atlas enables researchers from different disciplines to investigate diverse questions in the framework of non-covalent contacts, including the interpretation of allostery, disease mutations and polymorphisms, by exploring individual subunits, interfaces, and protein–ligand contacts and by mapping external information. The Protein Contacts Atlas is available at http://www.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/pca/ and also through PDBe.
Natural genetic variation in the human genome is a cause of individual differences in responses to medications and is an underappreciated burden on public health. Although 108 G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the targets of 475 (∼34%) Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and account for a global sales volume of over 180 billion US dollars annually, the prevalence of genetic variation among GPCRs targeted by drugs is unknown. By analyzing data from 68,496 individuals, we find that GPCRs targeted by drugs show genetic variation within functional regions such as drug- and effector-binding sites in the human population. We experimentally show that certain variants of μ-opioid and Cholecystokinin-A receptors could lead to altered or adverse drug response. By analyzing UK National Health Service drug prescription and sales data, we suggest that characterizing GPCR variants could increase prescription precision, improving patients’ quality of life, and relieve the economic and societal burden due to variable drug responsiveness.
The selective coupling of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) to specific G proteins is critical to trigger the appropriate physiological response. However, the determinants of selective binding have remained elusive. Here we reveal the existence of a selectivity barcode (that is, patterns of amino acids) on each of the 16 human G proteins that is recognized by distinct regions on the approximately 800 human receptors. Although universally conserved positions in the barcode allow the receptors to bind and activate G proteins in a similar manner, different receptors recognize the unique positions of the G-protein barcode through distinct residues, like multiple keys (receptors) opening the same lock (G protein) using non-identical cuts. Considering the evolutionary history of GPCRs allows the identification of these selectivity-determining residues. These findings lay the foundation for understanding the molecular basis of coupling selectivity within individual receptors and G proteins.
Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) can protect cells from diverse stresses by forming higher order assemblies such as reversible aggregates or granules. Recently, Boothby et al. show that IDPs protect tardigrades against desiccation by forming a glass-like amorphous matrix, highlighting that material properties of disordered proteins can confer adaptation during stress.
The paper by Chavali et al can be found here.
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is transforming our views of proteins by revealing how their structures and dynamics are closely intertwined to underlie their functions and interactions. Compelling representations of proteins as statistical ensembles are uncovering the presence and biological relevance of conformationally heterogeneous states, thus gradually making it possible to go beyond the dichotomy between order and disorder through more quantitative descriptions that span the continuum between them.
The paper by Sormanni et al can be found here.
In the 1960s, Christian Anfinsen postulated that the unique three-dimensional structure of a protein is determined by its amino acid sequence. This work laid the foundation for the sequence-structure-function paradigm, which states that the sequence of a protein determines its structure, and structure determines function. However, a class of polypeptide segments called intrinsically disordered regions does not conform to this postulate. In this review, I will first describe established and emerging ideas about how disordered regions contribute to protein function. I will then discuss molecular principles by which regulatory mechanisms, such as alternative splicing and asymmetric localization of transcripts that encode disordered regions, can increase the functional versatility of proteins. Finally, I will discuss how disordered regions contribute to human disease and the emergence of cellular complexity during organismal evolution.
The review by M. Madan Babu can be found here.
Gene fusions are common cancer-causing mutations, but the molecular principles by which fusion protein products affect interaction networks and cause disease are not well understood. Here, we perform an integrative analysis of the structural, interactomic, and regulatory properties of thousands of putative fusion proteins. We demonstrate that genes that form fusions (i.e., parent genes) tend to be highly connected hub genes, whose protein products are enriched in structured and disordered interaction-mediating features. Fusion often results in the loss of these parental features and the depletion of regulatory sites such as post-translational modifications. Fusion products disproportionately connect proteins that did not previously interact in the protein interaction network. In this manner, fusion products can escape cellular regulation and constitutively rewire protein interaction networks. We suggest that the deregulation of central, interaction-prone proteins may represent a widespread mechanism by which fusion proteins alter the topology of cellular signaling pathways and promote cancer. Paper by Natasha Latysheva et al can be found here.
Class A G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a large family of membrane proteins that mediate a wide variety of physiological functions, including vision, neurotransmission and immune responses. They are the targets of nearly one-third of all prescribed medicinal drugs such as beta blockers and antipsychotics. GPCR activation is facilitated by extracellular ligands and leads to the recruitment of intracellular G proteins. Structural rearrangements of residue contacts in the transmembrane domain serve as ‘activation pathways’ that connect the ligand-binding pocket to the G-protein-coupling region within the receptor. In order to investigate the similarities in activation pathways across class A GPCRs, we analysed 27 GPCRs from diverse subgroups for which structures of active, inactive or both states were available. Here we show that, despite the diversity in activation pathways between receptors, the pathways converge near the G-protein-coupling region. This convergence is mediated by a highly conserved structural rearrangement of residue contacts between transmembrane helices 3, 6 and 7 that releases G-protein-contacting residues. The convergence of activation pathways may explain how the activation steps initiated by diverse ligands enable GPCRs to bind a common repertoire of G proteins. Paper by AJ Venkatakrishnan et al can be found here.
The proteasome has pronounced preferences for the amino acid sequence of its substrates at the site where it initiates degradation. Here, we report that modulating these sequences can tune the steady-state abundance of proteins over 2 orders of magnitude in cells. This is the same dynamic range as seen for inducing ubiquitination through a classic N-end rule degron. The stability and abundance of His3 constructs dictated by the initiation site affect survival of yeast cells and show that variation in proteasomal initiation can affect fitness. The proteasome’s sequence preferences are linked directly to the affinity of the initiation sites to their receptor on the proteasome and are conserved between Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and human cells. These findings establish that the sequence composition of unstructured initiation sites influences protein abundance in vivo in an evolutionarily conserved manner and can affect phenotype and fitness. Paper by Yu H et al can be found here.
Although gene fusions have been recognized as important drivers of cancer for decades, our understanding of the prevalence and function of gene fusions has been revolutionized by the rise of next-generation sequencing, advances in bioinformatics theory and an increasing capacity for large-scale computational biology. The computational work on gene fusions has been vastly diverse, and the present state of the literature is fragmented. It will be fruitful to merge three camps of gene fusion bioinformatics that appear to rarely cross over: (i) data-intensive computational work characterizing the molecular biology of gene fusions; (ii) development research on fusion detection tools, candidate fusion prioritization algorithms and dedicated fusion databases and (iii) clinical research that seeks to either therapeutically target fusion transcripts and proteins or leverages advances in detection tools to perform large-scale surveys of gene fusion landscapes in specific cancer types. In this review, we unify these different-yet highly complementary and symbiotic-approaches with the view that increased synergy will catalyze advancements in gene fusion identification, characterization and significance evaluation. Paper by Natasha Latysheva and M. Madan Babu can be found here.