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The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde research outputs.

Strathprints serves world leading Open Access research by the University of Strathclyde, including research by the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS), where research centres such as the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), the Cancer Research UK Formulation Unit, SeaBioTech and the Centre for Biophotonics are based.

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Crystal structure of a Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase

McLuskey, Karen and Rudolf, Jana and Proto, William R and Isaacs, Neil W and Coombs, Graham H and Moss, Catherine X and Mottram, Jeremy C (2012) Crystal structure of a Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (19). pp. 7469-7474.

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Abstract

Metacaspases are distantly related caspase-family cysteine peptidases implicated in programmed cell death in plants and lower eukaryotes. They differ significantly from caspases because they are calcium-activated, arginine-specific peptidases that do not require processing or dimerization for activity. To elucidate the basis of these differences and to determine the impact they might have on the control of cell death pathways in lower eukaryotes, the previously undescribed crystal structure of a metacaspase, an inactive mutant of metacaspase 2 (MCA2) from Trypanosoma brucei, has been determined to a resolution of 1.4 Å. The structure comprises a core caspase fold, but with an unusual eight-stranded β-sheet that stabilizes the protein as a monomer. Essential aspartic acid residues, in the predicted S1 binding pocket, delineate the arginine-specific substrate specificity. In addition, MCA2 possesses an unusual N terminus, which encircles the protein and traverses the catalytic dyad, with Y31 acting as a gatekeeper residue. The calcium-binding site is defined by samarium coordinated by four aspartic acid residues, whereas calcium binding itself induces an allosteric conformational change that could stabilize the active site in a fashion analogous to subunit processing in caspases. Collectively, these data give insights into the mechanistic basis of substrate specificity and mode of activation of MCA2 and provide a detailed framework for understanding the role of metacaspases in cell death pathways of lower eukaryotes.