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Structure and sequence analyses of Bacteroides proteins BVU_4064 and BF1687 reveal presence of two novel predominantly-beta domains, predicted to be involved in lipid and cell surface interactions.



N-terminal domains of BVU_4064 and BF1687 proteins from Bacteroides vulgatus and Bacteroides fragilis respectively are members of the Pfam family PF12985 (DUF3869). Proteins containing a domain from this family can be found in most Bacteroides species and, in large numbers, in all human gut microbiome samples. Both BVU_4064 and BF1687 proteins have a consensus lipobox motif implying they are anchored to the membrane, but their functions are otherwise unknown. The C-terminal half of BVU_4064 is assigned to protein family PF12986 (DUF3870); the equivalent part of BF1687 was unclassified.


Crystal structures of both BVU_4064 and BF1687 proteins, solved at the JCSG center, show strikingly similar three-dimensional structures. The main difference between the two is that the two domains in the BVU_4064 protein are connected by a short linker, as opposed to a longer insertion made of 4 helices placed linearly along with a strand that is added to the C-terminal domain in the BF1687 protein. The N-terminal domain in both proteins, corresponding to the PF12985 (DUF3869) domain is a β-sandwich with pre-albumin-like fold, found in many proteins belonging to the Transthyretin clan of Pfam. The structures of C-terminal domains of both proteins, corresponding to the PF12986 (DUF3870) domain in BVU_4064 protein and an unclassified domain in the BF1687 protein, show significant structural similarity to bacterial pore-forming toxins. A helix in this domain is in an analogous position to a loop connecting the second and third strands in the toxin structures, where this loop is implicated to play a role in the toxin insertion into the host cell membrane. The same helix also points to the groove between the N- and C-terminal domains that are loosely held together by hydrophobic and hydrogen bond interactions. The presence of several conserved residues in this region together with these structural determinants could make it a functionally important region in these proteins.


Structural analysis of BVU_4064 and BF1687 points to possible roles in mediating multiple interactions on the cell-surface/extracellular matrix. In particular the N-terminal domain could be involved in adhesive interactions, the C-terminal domain and the inter-domain groove in lipid or carbohydrate interactions.

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