Over the past few years, we have determined the structures of the cytochrome bc1 complex from the photosynthetic bacterium R. sphaeroides (Rsbc1) in various forms, proposed an hypothesis for the mechanism of the surface-affinity modulated iron-sulfur protein (ISP) conformation switch to account for the bifurcated electron transfer (ET) at the quinol oxidation (QP) site, provided experimental evidence to support this hypothesis, and identified substrate ubiquinol (QH2) in the QP site for the first time. All these achievements were rooted in our relentless pursuit of better diffracting crystals. The structure solution of Rsbc1 accomplishes one of our goals in establishing a model system to systematically study the bc1 complex by combining structural, genetic, and biochemical techniques. Our structural studies of bovine bc1 led us to propose that the key to the bifurcated ET at the QP site is the control of the ISP-ED movement, which regulates the distance between the 2Fe2S cluster and c1 heme. The distance is too long to permit ET between the two sites when ISP-ED is in the fixed conformation;ET is only possible when ISP-ED is in the mobile conformation. We hypothesized that by modulating the shape of the binding surface, the cyt b subunit effectively controls its affinity for the ISP-ED, the movement of the ISP, and thereby the directions of the two electrons from the substrate ubiquinol. Data from reports in the literature and new experiments from our lab and from others support this hypothesis. Currently we are focusing on demonstrating the control mechanism in experiment in the absence of inhibitors, which is more relevant to physiological conditions.Over a decade of intensive post 3D-structure studies have arguably resolved most questions regarding the structure-function relationship of the cytochrome bc1 complex, setting the stage for integrating knowledge of this vital complex into a broader bioenergetics landscape that includes the regulation of bc1 by components of the TCA cycle and by molecular oxygen. Molecular oxygen enhances the electron transfer activity of bc1 by 82% depending on the intactness of the complex. The effect of oxygen on the reaction sequence of the cytochrome bc1 complex is at the step of heme bL reduction during the bifurcated oxidation of ubiquinol via the Q-cycle mechanism. Specific interactions between TCA cycle enzymes, malate dehydrogenase (MDH) and aconitase (ACON), have been demonstrated by co-precipitation and their ability to enhance bc1 activity. Crystallograpic studies of these interactions are underway. Since its approval by the FDA in the 1970s, cisplatin chemotherapy has become the cornerstone of a broad spectrum of cancer treatments and it is one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs in cancer medicine today. Like many other chemotherapeutic agents, cisplatin is facing a growing problem of resistance by cancers in its clinical application. A number of mechanisms have been proposed for the development of cisplatin resistance, including changes in cellular uptake and efflux of the drug, increased detoxification of the drug, inhibition of apoptosis, and increased DNA repair. Despite extensive research in the field, molecular mechanisms of cisplatin resistance remain elusive. The hypothetical protein TMEM205, formerly known as MBC3205, was speculated to be a secreted integral membrane protein by the Secreted Protein Discovery Initiative. This protein consists of 189 amino acid residues with four predicted trans-membrane helices (TMHs). Little was known about this protein and its cellular function until recently when we reported its role in cisplatin resistance in cancer cell lines. Using a fluorescence-labeled cisplatin, it was shown that overexpression of TMEM205 reduces accumulation of cisplatin in cancer cell lines;this reduction correlates with the cisplatin resistance of the cells. TMEM205 is shown to be a membrane protein localized to the cell surface and is highly expressed in both human cisplatin-resistant cervical carcinoma and hepatoma cells internally near the trans-golgi network. High expression levels of this protein are found in certain secretory tissues, such as those of the liver, pancreas, and adrenal glands, consistent with the postulated role of TMEM205 in cisplatin resistance. To achieve structural solution of TMEM205, we overexpressed this integral membrane protein, determined its oligomeric state, and crystallized it. The TMEM205 crystals diffracted X-rays to 2 A resolution. Currently, we are working to solve the crystallographic phase problem.Multidrug resistance (MDR) is a long-standing clinic challenge in cancer therapies. MDR is associated with over expression of efflux ABC transporters such as P-glycoproteins (P-gp) on cell surface. Efforts to stop P-gp during cancer treatment have not been successful. My lab has been working on elucidating the structure of P-gp for a long time in our attempts to uncover the mechanism of P-gp function from a structural perspective. Recently, we have successfully expressed both human and mouse P-gp in yeast expression systems. More importantly, we were able to crystallize mouse P-gp and crystals of mouse P-gp diffracted to 3.5 A resolution. This success provides us an opportunity to investigate the differences in solution behavior of human and mouse P-gp and potentially to provide a better structure of mouse P-gp. My lab also engages in molecular modeling studies of ABC transporters, which has become an important tool to gain structural and functional insights into proteins whose atomic structures are unknown. Over the years, we have constructed structural models for a number of ABC transporters such as ABCB1, ABCG2, Pdr5p, etc. These models are useful as guidance for further characterizations of these proteins.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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National Cancer Institute Division of Basic Sciences
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Esser, Lothar; Zhou, Fei; Pluchino, Kristen M et al. (2017) Structures of the Multidrug Transporter P-glycoprotein Reveal Asymmetric ATP Binding and the Mechanism of Polyspecificity. J Biol Chem 292:446-461
Esser, Lothar; Shukla, Suneet; Zhou, Fei et al. (2016) Crystal structure of the antigen-binding fragment of a monoclonal antibody specific for the multidrug-resistance-linked ABC transporter human P-glycoprotein. Acta Crystallogr F Struct Biol Commun 72:636-41
Pluchino, Kristen M; Hall, Matthew D; Moen, Janna K et al. (2016) Human-Mouse Chimeras with Normal Expression and Function Reveal That Major Domain Swapping Is Tolerated by P-Glycoprotein (ABCB1). Biochemistry 55:1010-23
Esser, Lothar; Zhou, Fei; Zhou, Yihui et al. (2016) Hydrogen Bonding to the Substrate Is Not Required for Rieske Iron-Sulfur Protein Docking to the Quinol Oxidation Site of Complex III. J Biol Chem 291:25019-25031
Frank, Gabriel A; Shukla, Suneet; Rao, Prashant et al. (2016) Cryo-EM Analysis of the Conformational Landscape of Human P-glycoprotein (ABCB1) During its Catalytic Cycle. Mol Pharmacol 90:35-41
Jian, Xiaoying; Tang, Wai-Kwan; Zhai, Peng et al. (2015) Molecular Basis for Cooperative Binding of Anionic Phospholipids to the PH Domain of the Arf GAP ASAP1. Structure 23:1977-88
Esser, Lothar; Yu, Chang-An; Xia, Di (2014) Structural basis of resistance to anti-cytochrome bc? complex inhibitors: implication for drug improvement. Curr Pharm Des 20:704-24
Xiao, Yu-Mei; Esser, Lothar; Zhou, Fei et al. (2014) Studies on inhibition of respiratory cytochrome bc1 complex by the fungicide pyrimorph suggest a novel inhibitory mechanism. PLoS One 9:e93765
Xia, Di; Esser, Lothar; Tang, Wai-Kwan et al. (2013) Structural analysis of cytochrome bc1 complexes: implications to the mechanism of function. Biochim Biophys Acta 1827:1278-94
Ma, Jichun; Tang, Wai Kwan; Esser, Lothar et al. (2012) Recognition of mesothelin by the therapeutic antibody MORAb-009: structural and mechanistic insights. J Biol Chem 287:33123-31

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