The cylindrical chaperonin GroEL and its cofactor GroES mediate ATP-dependent protein folding in Escherichia coli. Recent studies in vitro demonstrated that GroES binding to GroEL causes the displacement of unfolded polypeptide into the central volume of the GroEL cavity for folding in a sequestrated environment. Resulting native protein leaves GroEL upon GroES release, whereas incompletely folded polypeptide can be recaptured for structural rearrangement followed by another folding trial. Additionally, each cycle of GroES binding and dissociation is associated with the release of nonnative polypeptide into the bulk solution. Here we show that this loss of substrate from GroEL is prevented when the folding reaction is carried out in the presence of macromolecular crowding agents, such as Ficoll and dextran, or in a dense cytosolic solution. Thus, the release of nonnative polypeptide is not an essential feature of the productive chaperonin mechanism. Our results argue that conditions of excluded volume, thought to prevail in the bacterial cytosol, increase the capacity of the chaperonin to retain nonnative polypeptide throughout successive reaction cycles. We propose that the leakiness of the chaperonin system under physiological conditions is adjusted such that E. coli proteins are likely to complete folding without partitioning between different GroEL complexes. Polypeptides that are unable to fold on GroEL eventually will be transferred to other chaperones or the degradation machinery.
A simple model is proposed to account for large increases in transporter-mediated ion flux across cell membranes that are elicited by small fractional changes of cell volume. The model is based upon the concept that, as a result of large excluded volume effects in cytoplasm (macromolecular crowding), the tendency of soluble macromolecules to associate with membrane proteins is much more sensitive to changes in cell water content than expected on the basis of simple considerations of mass action. The model postulates that an ion transporter may exist in either an active dephosphorylated state or an inactive phosphorylated state and that the steady-state activity of the transporter reflects a balance between the rates of phosphatase-catalyzed activation and kinase-catalyzed inactivation. Cell swelling results in the inhibition of kinase relative to phosphatase activity, thereby increasing the steady-state concentration of the active form of the transporter. Calculated volume-dependent stimulation of ion flux is comparable to that observed experimentally.
Four new monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that inhibit human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)-induced syncytium formation were produced by immunizing BALB/c mice with HTLV-1-infected MT2 cells. Immunoprecipitation studies and binding assays of transfected mouse cells showed that these MAbs recognize class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Previously produced anti-class II MHC antibodies also blocked HTLV-1-induced cell fusion. Coimmunoprecipitation and competitive MAb binding studies indicated that class II MHC molecules and HTLV-1 envelope glycoproteins are not associated in infected cells. Anti-MHC antibodies had no effect on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) syncytium formation by cells coinfected with HIV-1 and HTLV-1, ruling out a generalized disruption of cell membrane function by the antibodies. High expression of MHC molecules suggested that steric effects of bound anti-MHC antibodies might explain their inhibition of HTLV-1 fusion. An anti-class I MHC antibody and a polyclonal antibody consisting of several nonblocking MAbs against other molecules bound to MT2 cells at levels similar to those of class II MHC antibodies, and they also blocked HTLV-1 syncytium formation. Dose-response experiments showed that inhibition of HTLV-1 syncytium formation correlated with levels of antibody bound to the surface of infected cells. The results show that HTLV-1 syncytium formation can be blocked by protein crowding or steric effects caused by large numbers of immunoglobulin molecules bound to the surface of infected cells and have implications for the structure of the cellular HTLV-1 receptor(s).
Macromolecular crowding extends the range of ionic conditions supporting high DNA polymerase reaction rates. Reactions tested were nick-translation and gap-filling by DNA polymerase I of Escherichia coli, nuclease and polymerase activities of the large fragment of that polymerase, and polymerization by the T4 DNA polymerase. For all of these reactions, high concentrations of nonspecific polymers increased enzymatic activity under otherwise inhibitory conditions resulting from relatively high ionic strength. The primary mechanism of the polymer effect seems to be to increase the binding of polymerase to DNA. We suggest that this effect on protein-DNA complexes is only one example of a general "metabolic buffering" action of crowded solutions on a variety of macromolecular interactions.
Macromolecular crowding conditions occurring inside the cell nucleus were reproduced experimentally with solutions of mononucleosome core particles to study their supramolecular organization. We report here that under these conditions, and over a large range of monovalent salt concentrations, mononucleosome core particles self-assemble to form a discotic liquid crystalline phase characterized in polarizing and freeze-fracture electron microscopy. Mononucleosomes are stacked on each other to form columns, which are themselves closely packed into an hexagonal array. The nucleosome concentration, estimated from the network parameters, falls in the range of values measured in cell nuclei. We suggest that these concentrated solutions, although their organization cannot be immediately compared to the organization of chromatin in vivo, may be used to investigate the nucleosome-nucleosome interactions. Furthermore, this approach may be complexified to take into account the complexity of the eucaryotic chromatin.
Fluorescence quenching has been used to measure quantitatively the effects of sucrose and triethylene glycol on the interaction between the Escherichia coli regulatory protein TyrR and a 30-basepair oligonucleotide containing the strong TyrR box of the TyrR operon. It was observed that the apparent binding constant increased in the presence of co-solutes, the dependence of the logarithm of the apparent binding constant on molar concentration being indistinguishable and essentially linear for both co-solutes. This activation of the TyrR-oligonucleotide interaction is attributed to thermodynamic nonideality arising from molecular crowding, an interpretation which is supported by the reasonable agreement observed between the experimental extent of reaction enhancement and that predicted on the statistical-mechanical basis of excluded volume.
The theory for the effects of crowding on the behavior of reversibly self-assembling solutes is extended to mixtures containing nonassembling solutes. The theory predicts that excluded volume will cause dramatic demixing into domains of long, tightly packed, highly aligned fibers coexisting with an isotropic solution of unaggregated species. It suggests that the bundling of fibers in cells is entropically driven and that accessory binding proteins in the cytoplasm serve to modulate the process rather than create it.
The cytosol of the cell contains high concentrations of small and large macromolecules, but experimental data are often obtained in dilute solutions that do not reflect in vivo conditions. We have studied the crowding effect that large macromolecules have on EcoRV cleavage by adding high-molecular-weight Ficoll 70 to reaction solutions. Results indicate that Ficoll has surprisingly little effect on overall EcoRV reaction velocity because of offsetting increases in V(max) and K(m), and stronger nonspecific binding. The changes in measured parameters can largely be attributed to the excluded volume effects on reactant activities and the slowing of protein diffusion. Covolume reduction upon binding appears to reinforce nonspecific binding strength, and k(cat) appears to be slowed by stronger nonspecific binding, which slows product release. The data also suggest that effective Ficoll particle volume decreases as its concentration increases above a few weight percent, which may be due to Ficoll interpenetration or compression.
Sickle hemoglobin nucleation occurs in solution as a homogeneous process or on existing polymers in a heterogeneous process. We have developed an analytic formulation to describe the solution crowding and large nonideality that affects the heterogeneous nucleation of sickle hemoglobin by using convex particle theory. The formulation successfully fits the concentration and temperature dependence of the heterogeneous nucleation process over 14 orders of magnitude. Unlike previous approaches, however, the new formulation can also accurately describe the effects of adding nonpolymerizing agents to the solution. Without additional adjustable parameters, the model now describes the data of M. Ivanova, R. Jasuja, S. Kwong, R. W. Briehl, and F. A. Ferrone, (Biophys. J. 2000, 79:1016-1022), in which up to 50% of the sickle hemoglobin is substituted by cross-linked hemoglobin A, which does not polymerize, and which substitution causes the rates to decrease by 10(5). The success of this approach provides insight into the polymerization process: from the size-dependence of the contact energy deduced here, it also appears that various contacts of unknown origin are energetically significant in the heterogeneous nucleation process.
Cross-sectional data were analyzed for a possible relationship between household densities and physiologic alteration, based on socialization experiences with siblings in an earlier home environment. The measure of household density was persons-per-room and the measure of physiologic alteration was urinary vanillylmandelic acid. The results show an interaction between number-of-sibs and number-of-younger-sibs, with a statistically significant positive correlation between household densities and VMA values for subjects with fewer total sibs and no younger sibs, while a negative correlation was observed for subjects with one or more younger sibs. One possible interpretation of these results is that the physiologic response to crowding in humans is dependent at least in part on the earlier socialization experiences of the individual.
Host-parasite interactions are significantly influenced by the sex of the host and the environment in which the host is found. Sex-specific responses to parasite infection, however, may change according to the host environment. I examine the combined effect of parasite infection and crowding on males and females of the mosquito Aedes albopictus. At a high larval density, infected males experienced a greater relative reduction in body size than did infected females, whereas the pattern was reversed at low density. This experiment demonstrates the importance of the environment on sex-specific responses to parasites and contributes to a growing body of work examining sources of variation in host-parasite interactions.
Folding, curvature, and domain formation are characteristics of many biological membranes. Yet the mechanisms that drive both curvature and the formation of specialized domains enriched in particular protein complexes are unknown. For this reason, studies in membranes whose shape and organization are known under physiological conditions are of great value. We therefore conducted atomic force microscopy and polarized spectroscopy experiments on membranes of the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides. These membranes are densely populated with peripheral light harvesting (LH2) complexes, physically and functionally connected to dimeric reaction center-light harvesting (RC-LH1-PufX) complexes. Here, we show that even when converting the dimeric RC-LH1-PufX complex into RC-LH1 monomers by deleting the gene encoding PufX, both the appearance of protein domains and the associated membrane curvature are retained. This suggests that a general mechanism may govern membrane organization and shape. Monte Carlo simulations of a membrane model accounting for crowding and protein geometry alone confirm that these features are sufficient to induce domain formation and membrane curvature. Our results suggest that coexisting ordered and fluid domains of like proteins can arise solely from asymmetries in protein size and shape...
The photosynthetic light reactions of green plants are mediated by chlorophyll-binding protein complexes located in the thylakoid membranes within the chloroplasts. Thylakoid membranes have a complex structure, with lateral segregation of protein complexes into distinct membrane regions known as the grana and the stroma lamellae. It has long been clear that some protein complexes can diffuse between the grana and the stroma lamellae, and that this movement is important for processes including membrane biogenesis, regulation of light harvesting, and turnover and repair of the photosynthetic complexes. In the grana membranes, diffusion may be problematic because the protein complexes are very densely packed (approximately 75% area occupation) and semicrystalline protein arrays are often observed. To date, direct measurements of protein diffusion in green plant thylakoids have been lacking. We have developed a form of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching that allows direct measurement of the diffusion of chlorophyll-protein complexes in isolated grana membranes from Spinacia oleracea. We show that about 75% of fluorophores are immobile within our measuring period of a few minutes. We suggest that this immobility is due to a protein network covering a whole grana disc. However...
Given the importance of protein complexes as therapeutic targets, it is necessary to understand the physical chemistry of these interactions under the crowded conditions that exist in cells. We have used sedimentation equilibrium to quantify the enhancement of the reversible homodimerization of α-chymotrypsin by high concentrations of the osmolytes glucose, sucrose, and raffinose. In an attempt to rationalize the osmolyte-mediated stabilization of the α-chymotrypsin homodimer, we have used models based on binding interactions (transfer-free energy analysis) and steric interactions (excluded volume theory) to predict the stabilization. Although transfer-free energy analysis predicts reasonably well the relatively small stabilization observed for complex formation between cytochrome c and cytochrome c peroxidase, as well as that between bobtail quail lysozyme and a monoclonal Fab fragment, it underestimates the sugar-mediated stabilization of the α-chymotrypsin dimer. Although predictions based on excluded volume theory overestimate the stabilization, it would seem that a major determinant in the observed stabilization of the α-chymotrypsin homodimer is the thermodynamic nonideality arising from molecular crowding by the three small sugars.
E-DNA sensors, the electrochemical equivalent of molecular beacons, appear to be a promising means of detecting oligonucleotides. E-DNA sensors are comprised of a redox-modified (here, methylene blue or ferrocene) DNA stem-loop covalently attached to an interrogating electrode. Because E-DNA signaling arises due to binding-induced changes in the conformation of the stem-loop probe, it is likely sensitive to the nature of the molecular packing on the electrode surface. Here we detail the effects of probe density, target length, and other aspects of molecular crowding on the signaling properties, specificity, and response time of a model E-DNA sensor. We find that the highest signal suppression is obtained at the highest probe densities investigated, and that greater suppression is observed with longer and bulkier targets. In contrast, sensor equilibration time slows monotonically with increasing probe density, and the specificity of hybridization is not significantly affected. In addition to providing insight into the optimization of electrochemical DNA sensors, these results suggest that E-DNA signaling arises due to hybridization-linked changes in the rate, and thus efficiency, with which the redox moiety collides with the electrode and transfers electrons.
Thirty randomly oriented T’s were presented in a circle around fixation at an eccentricity of 11 degrees such that each T was crowded by its neighbors. Two locations within the same hemifield (unilateral condition) or one location in each hemifield (bilateral condition) were precued for subsequent probing. Observers were then asked to report the orientation of a target T at one of these locations. A bilateral field advantage was found: target identification was better when the two precued targets were in different hemifields than when they were within the same hemifield. This bilateral advantage was absent when only targets were presented, without any distracters. Further controls showed that this advantage could not be attributed to differences between horizontal and vertical target alignments or to visual field anisotropies. A similar bilateral advantage has been reported for multiple object tracking (Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2005) and other attentional tasks. Our results suggest that crowding also demonstrates separate attentional resources in the left and right hemifields. There was a cost to attending to two targets presented unilaterally over attending to a single target. However, this cost was reduced when the two crowded targets were in separate hemifields.
In recent years significant effort has been devoted to exploring the potential effects of macromolecular crowding on protein folding and association phenomena. Theoretical calculations and molecular simulations have, in particular, been exploited to describe aspects of protein behavior in crowded and confined conditions and many aspects of the simulated behavior have reflected, at least at a qualitative level, the behavior observed in experiments. One major and immediate challenge for the theorists is to now produce models capable of making quantitatively accurate predictions of in vitro behavior. A second challenge is to derive models that explain results obtained from experiments performed in vivo, the results of which appear to call into question the assumed dominance of excluded volume effects in vivo.
Aerobic glycolysis is a seemingly wasteful mode of ATP production that is seen both in rapidly proliferating mammalian cells and highly active contracting muscles, but whether there is a common origin for its presence in these widely different systems is unknown. To study this issue, here we develop a model of human central metabolism that incorporates a solvent capacity constraint of metabolic enzymes and mitochondria, accounting for their occupied volume densities, while assuming glucose and/or fatty acid utilization. The model demonstrates that activation of aerobic glycolysis is favored above a threshold metabolic rate in both rapidly proliferating cells and heavily contracting muscles, because it provides higher ATP yield per volume density than mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. In the case of muscle physiology, the model also predicts that before the lactate switch, fatty acid oxidation increases, reaches a maximum, and then decreases to zero with concomitant increase in glucose utilization, in agreement with the empirical evidence. These results are further corroborated by a larger scale model, including biosynthesis of major cell biomass components. The larger scale model also predicts that in proliferating cells the lactate switch is accompanied by activation of glutaminolysis...
In vitro studies of biological macromolecules are usually performed in dilute, buffered solutions containing one or just a few different biological macromolecules. Under these conditions, the interactions among molecules are diffusion limited. On the contrary, in living systems, macromolecules of a given type are surrounded by many others, at very high total concentrations. In the last few years, there has been an increasing effort to study biological macromolecules directly in natural crowded environments, as in intact bacterial cells or by mimicking natural crowding by adding proteins, polysaccharides, or even synthetic polymers. Here, we propose the use of hen egg white (HEW) as a simple natural medium, with all features of the media of crowded cells, that could be used by any researcher without difficulty and inexpensively. We present a study of the stability and dynamics behavior of model proteins in HEW, chosen as a prototypical, readily accessible natural medium that can mimic cytosol. We show that two typical globular proteins, dissolved in HEW, give NMR spectra very similar to those obtained in dilute buffers, although dynamic parameters are clearly affected by the crowded medium. The thermal stability of one of these proteins...