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LSSS 2015-2016


Life Sciences Seminar Series


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Stefan Raunser

Department of Structural Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany; Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

How to kill a mocking bug - Structural insights into Tc toxin complex action

Selected Publications

Structure of mega-hemocyanin reveals protein origami in snails.Gatsogiannis C, Hofnagel O, Markl J, Raunser S
Structure 2015 Jan 6; 23(1):93-103


Mega-hemocyanin is a 13.5 MDa oxygen transporter found in the hemolymph of some snails. Similar to typical gastropod hemocyanins, it is composed of 400 kDa building blocks but has additional 550 kDa subunits. Together, they form a large, completely filled cylinder. The structural basis for this highly complex protein packing is not known so far. Here, we report the electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) structure of mega-hemocyanin complexes from two different snail species. The structures reveal that mega-hemocyanin is composed of flexible building blocks that differ in their conformation, but not in their primary structure. Like a protein origami, these flexible blocks are optimally packed, implementing different local symmetries and pseudosymmetries. A comparison between the two structures suggests a surprisingly simple evolutionary mechanism leading to these large oxygen transporters.

Structure of the F-actin-tropomyosin complex.von der Ecken J, Müller M, Lehman W, Manstein DJ, Penczek PA, Raunser S
Nature 2015 Mar 5; 519(7541):114-7


Filamentous actin (F-actin) is the major protein of muscle thin filaments, and actin microfilaments are the main component of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. Mutations in different actin isoforms lead to early-onset autosomal dominant non-syndromic hearing loss, familial thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections, and multiple variations of myopathies. In striated muscle fibres, the binding of myosin motors to actin filaments is mainly regulated by tropomyosin and troponin. Tropomyosin also binds to F-actin in smooth muscle and in non-muscle cells and stabilizes and regulates the filaments there in the absence of troponin. Although crystal structures for monomeric actin (G-actin) are available, a high-resolution structure of F-actin is still missing, hampering our understanding of how disease-causing mutations affect the function of thin muscle filaments and microfilaments. Here we report the three-dimensional structure of F-actin at a resolution of 3.7 Å in complex with tropomyosin at a resolution of 6.5 Å, determined by electron cryomicroscopy. The structure reveals that the D-loop is ordered and acts as a central region for hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions that stabilize the F-actin filament. We clearly identify map density corresponding to ADP and Mg(2+) and explain the possible effect of prominent disease-causing mutants. A comparison of F-actin with G-actin reveals the conformational changes during filament formation and identifies the D-loop as their key mediator. We also confirm that negatively charged tropomyosin interacts with a positively charged groove on F-actin. Comparison of the position of tropomyosin in F-actin-tropomyosin with its position in our previously determined F-actin-tropomyosin-myosin structure reveals a myosin-induced transition of tropomyosin. Our results allow us to understand the role of individual mutations in the genesis of actin- and tropomyosin-related diseases and will serve as a strong foundation for the targeted development of drugs.

Architecture and conformational switch mechanism of the ryanodine receptor.Efremov RG, Leitner A, Aebersold R, Raunser S
Nature 2015 Jan 1; 517(7532):39-43


Muscle contraction is initiated by the release of calcium (Ca(2+)) from the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the cytoplasm of myocytes through ryanodine receptors (RyRs). RyRs are homotetrameric channels with a molecular mass of more than 2.2 megadaltons that are regulated by several factors, including ions, small molecules and proteins. Numerous mutations in RyRs have been associated with human diseases. The molecular mechanism underlying the complex regulation of RyRs is poorly understood. Using electron cryomicroscopy, here we determine the architecture of rabbit RyR1 at a resolution of 6.1 Å. We show that the cytoplasmic moiety of RyR1 contains two large α-solenoid domains and several smaller domains, with folds suggestive of participation in protein-protein interactions. The transmembrane domain represents a chimaera of voltage-gated sodium and pH-activated ion channels. We identify the calcium-binding EF-hand domain and show that it functions as a conformational switch allosterically gating the channel.

Mechanism of Tc toxin action revealed in molecular detail.Meusch D, Gatsogiannis C, Efremov RG, Lang AE, Hofnagel O, Vetter IR, Aktories K, Raunser S
Nature 2014 Apr 3; 508(7494):61-5


Tripartite Tc toxin complexes of bacterial pathogens perforate the host membrane and translocate toxic enzymes into the host cell, including in humans. The underlying mechanism is complex but poorly understood. Here we report the first, to our knowledge, high-resolution structures of a TcA subunit in its prepore and pore state and of a complete 1.7 megadalton Tc complex. The structures reveal that, in addition to a translocation channel, TcA forms four receptor-binding sites and a neuraminidase-like region, which are important for its host specificity. pH-induced opening of the shell releases an entropic spring that drives the injection of the TcA channel into the membrane. Binding of TcB/TcC to TcA opens a gate formed by a six-bladed β-propeller and results in a continuous protein translocation channel, whose architecture and properties suggest a novel mode of protein unfolding and translocation. Our results allow us to understand key steps of infections involving Tc toxins at the molecular level.

The role of Cdc42 and Gic1 in the regulation of septin filament formation and dissociation.Sadian Y, Gatsogiannis C, Patasi C, Hofnagel O, Goody RS, Farkasovský M, Raunser S
Elife 2013 Nov 28; 2:e01085


Septins are guanine nucleotide-binding proteins that polymerize into filamentous and higher-order structures. Cdc42 and its effector Gic1 are involved in septin recruitment, ring formation and dissociation. The regulatory mechanisms behind these processes are not well understood. Here, we have used electron microscopy and cryo electron tomography to elucidate the structural basis of the Gic1-septin and Gic1-Cdc42-septin interaction. We show that Gic1 acts as a scaffolding protein for septin filaments forming long and flexible filament cables. Cdc42 in its GTP-form binds to Gic1, which ultimately leads to the dissociation of Gic1 from the filament cables. Surprisingly, Cdc42-GDP is not inactive, but in the absence of Gic1 directly interacts with septin filaments resulting in their disassembly. We suggest that this unanticipated dual function of Cdc42 is crucial for the cell cycle. Based on our results we propose a novel regulatory mechanism for septin filament formation and dissociation. DOI: