William Montfort

William Montfort, PhD, determines the atomic structures of proteins and seeks to understand how protein structure gives rise to protein function – both in vitro and in living cells. At their heart, the problems have a fundamental structure-function question, but also address questions of importance to human health. Approaches include X-ray crystallography, rapid kinetic measurements, spectroscopy, theory, protein expression, drug discovery, molecular genetics and related techniques.

Dr. Montfort is particularly interested in nitric oxide signaling mechanisms. Nitric oxide (NO) is a small reactive molecule produced by all higher organisms for the regulation of an immensely varied physiology, including blood pressure regulation, memory formation, tissue development and programmed cell death. He is interested in two NO signaling mechanisms: binding of NO to heme and the nitrosylation (nitrosation) of cysteines. NO, produced by NO synthase, binds to soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) at a ferrous heme center, either in the same cell or in nearby cells. Binding leads to conformational changes in heme and protein, and to induction of the protein’s catalytic function and the production cGMP. NO can also react with cysteine residues in proteins, giving rise to S-nitroso (SNO) groups that can alter protein function. He continues to study the mechanistic details surrounding cGMP and SNO production, and the signaling consequences of their formation.

For reversible Fe-NO chemistry, Dr. Montfort is studying soluble guanylate cyclase and the nitrophorins, a family of NO transport proteins from blood-sucking insects. Our crystal structures of nitrophorin 4 extend to resolutions beyond 0.9 angstroms, allowing us to view hydrogens, multiple residue conformations and subtle changes in heme deformation. For reversible SNO chemistry, he is studying thioredoxin, glutathione S-nitroso reductase (GSNOR) and also sGC. For regulation in the cell, Dr. Montfort and his group have constructed a model cell system based on a human fibrosarcoma called HT-1080, where sGC, NO synthase, thioredoxin and GSNOR can be manipulated in a functional cellular environment. With these tools, they are exploring the molecular details of NO signaling and whole-cell physiology, and undertaking a program of drug discovery for NO-dependent diseases.


Crystal Structures Of Multicopper Oxidase Cue O Bound To Copper(I) And Silver(I): Functional Role Of A Methionine Rich Sequence. Source: The Journal Of Biological Chemistry
September 8th, 2011 PMID: 21903583 William Montfort
The multicopper oxidase CueO oxidizes toxic Cu(I) and is required for copper homeostasis in Escherichia coli. Like many proteins involved in copper homeostasis, CueO has a methionine-rich segment that is thought to be critical for copper handling. How such segments function is poorly understood. Here, we report the crystal structure of CueO at 1.1 Å with the 45-residue methionine-rich segment fully resolved, revealing an N-terminal helical segment with methionine residues juxtaposed for Cu(I) ligation and a C-terminal highly mobile segment rich in methionine and histidine residues. We also report structures of CueO with a C500S mutation, which leads to loss of the T1 copper, and CueO with six methionines changed to serine. Soaking C500S CueO crystals with Cu(I), or wild-type CueO crystals with Ag(I), leads to occupancy of three sites, the previously identified substrate-binding site and two new sites along the methionine-rich helix, involving methionines 358, 362, 368, and 376. Mutation of these residues leads to a ∼4-fold reduction in k(cat) for Cu(I) oxidation. Ag(I), which often appears with copper in nature, strongly inhibits CueO oxidase activities in vitro and compromises copper tolerance in vivo, particularly in the absence of the complementary copper efflux cus system. Together, these studies demonstrate a role for the methionine-rich insert of CueO in the binding and oxidation of Cu(I) and highlight the interplay among cue and cus systems in copper and silver homeostasis.<br /><br />
Crystal Structure Of Human Thioredoxin Revealing An Unraveled Helix And Exposed S Nitrosation Site. Source: Protein Science : A Publication Of The Protein Society
November 19th, 2010 PMID: 20662007 William Montfort
Thioredoxins reduce disulfide bonds and other thiol modifications in all cells using a CXXC motif. Human thioredoxin 1 is unusual in that it codes for an additional three cysteines in its 105 amino acid sequence, each of which have been implicated in other reductive activities. Cys 62 and Cys 69 are buried in the protein interior and lie at either end of a short helix (helix 3), and yet can disulfide link under oxidizing conditions. Cys 62 is readily S-nitrosated, giving rise to a SNO modification, which is also buried. Here, we present two crystal structures of the C69S/C73S mutant protein under oxidizing (1.5 A) and reducing (1.1 A) conditions. In the oxidized structure, helix 3 is unraveled and displays a new conformation that is stabilized by a series of new hydrogen bonds and a disulfide link with Cys 62 in a neighboring molecule. The new conformation provides an explanation for how a completely buried residue can participate in SNO exchange reactions.<br /><br />
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