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Araya-Secchi R.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Araya-Secchi R.,IBM | Araya-Secchi R.,University of Valparaiso | Perez-Acle T.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | And 14 more authors.
Biophysical Journal | Year: 2014

Connexins (Cxs) are a family of vertebrate proteins constituents of gap junction channels (GJCs) that connect the cytoplasm of adjacent cells by the end-to-end docking of two Cx hemichannels. The intercellular transfer through GJCs occurs by passive diffusion allowing the exchange of water, ions, and small molecules. Despite the broad interest to understand, at the molecular level, the functional state of Cx-based channels, there are still many unanswered questions regarding structure-function relationships, perm-selectivity, and gating mechanisms. In particular, the ordering, structure, and dynamics of water inside Cx GJCs and hemichannels remains largely unexplored. In this work, we describe the identification and characterization of a believed novel water pocket - termed the IC pocket - located in-between the four transmembrane helices of each human Cx26 (hCx26) monomer at the intracellular (IC) side. Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to characterize hCx26 internal water structure and dynamics, six IC pockets were identified per hemichannel. A detailed characterization of the dynamics and ordering of water including conformational variability of residues forming the IC pockets, together with multiple sequence alignments, allowed us to propose a functional role for this cavity. An in vitro assessment of tracer uptake suggests that the IC pocket residue Arg-143 plays an essential role on the modulation of the hCx26 hemichannel permeability. © 2014 Biophysical Society.

Retamal M.J.,University of Santiago de Chile | Cisternas M.A.,University of Santiago de Chile | Gutierrez-Maldonado S.E.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Gutierrez-Maldonado S.E.,University of Valparaiso | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Chemical Physics | Year: 2014

The recent combination of nanoscale developments with biological molecules for biotechnological research has opened a wide field related to the area of biosensors. In the last years, device manufacturing for medical applications adapted the so-called bottom-up approach, from nanostructures to larger devices. Preparation and characterization of artificial biological membranes is a necessary step for the formation of nano-devices or sensors. In this paper, we describe the formation and characterization of a phospholipid bilayer (dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine, DPPC) on a mattress of a polysaccharide (Chitosan) that keeps the membrane hydrated. The deposition of Chitosan (∼25 Å) and DPPC (∼60 Å) was performed from the gas phase in high vacuum onto a substrate of Si(100) covered with its native oxide layer. The layer thickness was controlled in situ using Very High Resolution Ellipsometry (VHRE). Raman spectroscopy studies show that neither Chitosan nor DPPC molecules decompose during evaporation. With VHRE and Atomic Force Microscopy we have been able to detect phase transitions in the membrane. The presence of the Chitosan interlayer as a water reservoir is essential for both DPPC bilayer formation and stability, favoring the appearance of phase transitions. Our experiments show that the proposed sample preparation from the gas phase is reproducible and provides a natural environment for the DPPC bilayer. In future work, different Chitosan thicknesses should be studied to achieve a complete and homogeneous interlayer. © 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.

Escalona Y.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Garate J.A.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Garate J.A.,University of Valparaiso | Araya-Secchi R.,Ohio State University | And 4 more authors.
Biophysical Journal | Year: 2016

The conductance of ion channels can be modulated by a transmembrane potential difference, due to alterations on ion-mobility and also by changes in the pore structure. Despite the vast knowledge regarding the influence of voltage on transport properties of ion channels, little attention has been paid to describe, with atomic detail, the modulation of ionic transport in gap-junction channels (GJCs). Hence, molecular dynamics simulations were performed to explore the conductance of simple dual-membrane systems that account for the very basic features of GJCs. In doing so, we studied the influence of different charge distributions in the channel surface on these idealized systems under external electric fields, paying attention to the behavior of the electrostatic potential, ion density, ion currents, and equilibrium properties. Our results demonstrate that the incorporation of a charge distribution akin GJCs decreased anionic currents, favoring the transport of cationic species. Moreover, a thermodynamic characterization of ionic transport in these systems demonstrate the existence of a kinetic barrier that hinders anionic currents, reinforcing the role played by the internal arrangement of charges in GJCs. Overall, our results provide insights at the atomic scale on the effects of charge distributions over ionic transport, constituting a step forward into a better understanding of GJCs. © 2016 Biophysical Society.

Abarca F.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Abarca F.,University of Valparaiso | Gutierrez-Maldonado S.E.,Computational Biology Laboratory DLab | Gutierrez-Maldonado S.E.,University of Valparaiso | And 5 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2014

Licanantase (Lic) is the major component of the secretome of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans when grown in elemental sulphur. When used as an additive, Lic improves copper recovery frombioleaching processes. However, this recovery enhancement is not fully understood. In this context, our aim is to predict the 3D structure of Lic, to shed light on its structure-function relationships. Bioinformatics analyses on the amino acid sequence of Lic showed a great similarity with Lpp, an Escherichia coli Lipoprotein that can formstable trimers in solution. Lic and Lpp share the secretion motif, intracellular processing and alpha helix structure, as well as the distribution of hydrophobic residues in heptads forming a hydrophobic core, typical of coiled-coil structures. Cross-linking experiments showed the presence of Lic trimers, supporting our predictions. Taking the in vitro and in silico evidence as a whole, we propose that the most probable structure for Lic is a trimeric coiled-coil. According to this prediction, a suitable model for Lic was produced using the de novo algorithm "Rosetta Fold-and-Dock". To assess the structural stability of our model, Molecular Dynamics (MD) and Replica Exchange MD simulations were performed using the structure of Lpp and a 14-alanine Lpp mutant as controls, at both acidic and neutral pH. Our results suggest that Lic was the most stable structure among the studied proteins in both pH conditions. This increased stability can be explained by a higher number of both intermonomer hydrophobic contacts and hydrogen bonds, key elements for the stability of Lic's secondary and tertiary structure. © 2014 Abarca et al.

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