Advancing understanding of secondary cell wall polymer binding and synthesis in S-layers of Gram-Positive bacteria




Legg, Max

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Self-assembling protein surface layers (S-layers) are ubiquitous prokaryotic cell-surface structures involved in structural maintenance, nutrient diffusion, host adhesion, virulence, and many additional processes, which makes them appealing targets for therapeutics and biotechnological applications, including live vaccines, liposome drug delivery and biosensors. Unlocking this potential requires expanding our understanding of S-layer properties, especially the details of surface-attachment. S-layers of Gram-positive bacteria often are attached through the interaction of specialized S-layer homology (SLH) domain trimers with peptidoglycan-linked secondary cell wall polymers (SCWPs). Characterization of this interaction in the Gram-positive model organism Paenibacillus alvei CCM 2051T reveals that, remarkably, binding-site switches can occur between two distinct SLH-domain SCWP receptor-site grooves in the S-layer protein SpaA, possibly as part of a mechanism to alleviate strain in the S-layer. To date, however, analysis of this novel mechanism has been limited to the terminal SCWP monosaccharide and the internal SCWP repeat disaccharide ligand analogues, leaving open the role of subsequent SCWP sugar residues in binding, as well as whether the two receptor sites are also suited to accommodate longer SCWP ligands that better approximate the biological target at the surface of P. alvei. To address this, the objective of this work aims to uncover and characterize the details of the SpaA SLH-domain (SpaASLH¬) SCWP-interaction by determining the co-crystal structures of SpaASLH¬, and single (SpaASLH/G109A) and the corresponding double (SpaASLH/G46A/G109A) mutants in complex with synthetic terminal disaccharide and trisaccharide analogues of the P. alvei CCM 2051T SCWP target. These structural characterizations have been supplemented with disaccharide and trisaccharide binding data, which was obtained through thermodynamic ITC analyses carried out by collaborators. The co-crystal structures of P. alvei SpaASLH with synthetic, terminal SCWP disaccharide and trisaccharide analogues, together with previously published monosaccharide-bound SpaASLH structures, reveal that while the SLH trimer accommodates longer biologically relevant SCWP ligands within both its primary (G2) and secondary (G1) binding sites, the terminal pyruvylated ManNAc moiety serves as the nearly-exclusive SCWP anchoring point. Binding is accompanied by displacement of a flexible loop adjacent to the receptor site that enhances the complementarity between protein and ligand, including electrostatic complementarity with the terminal pyruvate moiety. Remarkably, binding of the pyruvylated monosaccharide SCWP fragment alone is sufficient to cause rearrangement of the receptor binding sites in a manner necessary to accommodate longer SCWP fragments. The observation of multiple conformations for longer oligosaccharides bound to the protein, together with the demonstrated functionality of two of the three SCWP receptor binding sites, reveals how the SpaASLH-SCWP interaction has evolved to accommodate longer SCWP ligands and alleviate the strain inherent to bacterial S-layer adhesion during growth and division. In addition, to further clarify the steps involved in SCWP biosynthesis, we present a crystal structure of the unliganded UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase enzyme MnaA, which catalyzes the interconversion of UDP-GlcNAc into UDP-ManNAc—an essential building block of the P. alvei SCWP target. The P. alvei MnaA epimerase adopts a GT-B fold that is consistent with the architecture of previously published structures of other bacterial non-hydrolyzing UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase enzymes for which substrate binding is observed in the cleft located between the two domains. Characterization of this structure, coupled with an analysis of the sequence of the MnaA protein, reveals the presence of conserved residues that define the catalytic and allosteric sites in homologous enzymes from different organisms. These residues are positioned to accommodate substrate within the MnaA binding cleft in much the same manner as the published enzyme homologues, suggesting that allosteric regulation as a mechanism for enzyme regulation is conserved in P. alvei MnaA. These investigations are part of a greater effort toward understanding SLH domain-mediated SCWP-interactions in Gram-positive organisms, and provide insight into the structure and putative function of this SCWP biosynthetic enzyme. By understanding these processes, this knowledge may contribute to providing a platform for the rational design of Gram-positive inhibitors. Such inhibitors could selectively target, for example, the bacterial S-layer SCWP-binding interaction, or perhaps the essential biosynthetic enzymes involved in producing the exclusive targets that these S-layer proteins recognize and bind, and would thus represent a new class of antimicrobial therapeutics.



S-layer, SLH domain, Secondary cell wall polymer, X-ray crystallography, Paenibacillus alvei, Cell wall anchoring, UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase, MnaA, SCWP