Single-molecule Force Spectroscopy Reveals the Calcium Dependence of the Alternative Conformations in the Native State of a βγ-Crystallin Protein.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Although multidomain proteins predominate the proteome of all organisms and are expected to display complex folding behaviors and significantly greater structural dynamics as compared with single-domain proteins, their conformational heterogeneity and its impact on their interaction with ligands are poorly understood due to a lack of experimental techniques. The multidomain calcium-binding βγ-crystallin proteins are particularly important because their deterioration and misfolding/aggregation are associated with melanoma tumors and cataracts. Here we investigate the mechanical stability and conformational dynamics of a model calcium-binding βγ-crystallin protein, Protein S, and elaborate on its interactions with calcium. We ask whether domain interactions and calcium binding affect Protein S folding and potential structural heterogeneity. Our results from single-molecule force spectroscopy show that the N-terminal (but not the C-terminal) domain is in equilibrium with an alternative conformation in the absence of Ca(2+), which is mechanically stable in contrast to other proteins that were observed to sample a molten globule under similar conditions. Mutagenesis experiments and computer simulations reveal that the alternative conformation of the N-terminal domain is caused by structural instability produced by the high charge density of a calcium binding site. We find that this alternative conformation in the N-terminal domain is diminished in the presence of calcium and can also be partially eliminated with a hitherto unrecognized compensatory mechanism that uses the interaction of the C-terminal domain to neutralize the electronegative site. We find that up to 1% of all identified multidomain calcium-binding proteins contain a similarly highly charged site and therefore may exploit a similar compensatory mechanism to prevent structural instability in the absence of ligand.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Scholl, ZN; Li, Q; Yang, W; Marszalek, PE

Published Date

  • August 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 291 / 35

Start / End Page

  • 18263 - 18275

PubMed ID

  • 27378818

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5000074

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1083-351X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0021-9258

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1074/jbc.m116.729525


  • eng