Integral membrane protein complexes consisting of proteins and small molecules that act as cofactors are ubiquitous and vitally important for organisms. For example, cytochrome oxidase is a mitochondrial complex that catalyzes the delivery of electrons to oxygen to allow cellular respiration. Rhodopsin is found in the eyes of many animals, including humans, and consists of an opsin membrane protein and a Vitamin A retinal cofactor. In these systems, an exquisite balance of protein and cofactor is maintained. Disruptions in this balance are thought to be causative factors for diseases such as Alzheimer's and retinitis pigmentosa. The proposed project describes a multidisciplinary approach to characterize a novel mechanism for coordinated synthesis of proteins and cofactors for integral membrane complexes. We will take advantage of the simple bacteriorhodopsin (BR) protein-cofactor complex in the microbe Halobacterium salinarum to potentially provide insight into how coordination is achieved in more complex systems. BR functions as a light-driven proton pump in the halophilic archaeon H. salinarum, and allows the organism to generate usable cellular energy under conditions where low oxygen prevents aerobic respiration. BR is the simplest possible membrane protein complex consisting of a single retinal cofactor bound to a single protein, bacterioopsin (BO). Under low oxygen conditions, H. salinarum rapidly induces BR biosynthesis, and this induction necessarily requires increased production of both the protein, BO, and the cofactor, retinal. In the proposed work, we explore how H. salinarum proteins interact to coordinate the synthesis of BO and retinal. Our preliminary results suggest that this coordination occurs by a novel mechanism where BO, not bound by retinal, inhibits an alternate biochemical pathway to only allow precursor molecules to be used for retinal synthesis. To investigate this mechanism, we will use genetic and biochemical approaches to characterize enzymes that catalyze the synthesis of the retinal cofactor and related molecules. We will then identify which retinal precursors or enzymes interact with BO. Lastly, we will structurally characterize the interaction between BO and these molecules.

Public Health Relevance

Molecular complexes consisting of proteins and cofactors are critical to our everyday life, such as complexes that enable the physical processes that allow us to see or to gain energy from food. Unfortunately, these cofactors and proteins can occasionally get out of balance, leading to diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and Alzheimer's. The proposed research will study a simple molecular complex in a model system, in order to help us understand the mechanisms that operate in our own bodies to keep proteins and their cofactors in the correct balance.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Prokaryotic Cell and Molecular Biology Study Section (PCMB)
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Hagan, Ann A
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Lawrence University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Peck, Ronald F; Ple?a, Alexandru M; Graham, Serena M et al. (2017) Opsin-Mediated Inhibition of Bacterioruberin Synthesis in Halophilic Archaea. J Bacteriol 199:
Dummer, Antoinette M; Bonsall, Jessica C; Cihla, Jacob B et al. (2011) Bacterioopsin-mediated regulation of bacterioruberin biosynthesis in Halobacterium salinarum. J Bacteriol 193:5658-67