Construction of new ligand binding sites in proteins of known structure. II. Grafting of a buried transition metal binding site into Escherichia coli thioredoxin.
In an accompanying paper a computational procedure is described, which introduces new ligand-binding sites into proteins of known structure. Here we describe the experimental implementation of one of the designs, which is intended to introduce a copper-binding site into Escherichia coli thioredoxin. The new binding site can be introduced with a minimum of four amino acid changes. The binding site is buried so that structural rules for making mutations in the hydrophobic core of a protein, as well as for the introduction of new functions, are being tested in this experiment. The mutant protein is folded even in the absence of metals, and variants that retain the original activity of thioredoxin can be isolated. The protein has gained a metal-binding site specific for transition metals. The metal co-ordination chemistry at the binding site varies depending on the metal that is introduced into it. Mercury(II) is co-ordinated in the expected manner. Copper(II) binds in a way that was not anticipated in the original design. It appears to use two of the four residues intended to form the co-ordination sphere, and two other residues that were not part of the original set of mutations. It is therefore necessary not only to introduce new functional groups to form a new site, but also to consider and remove alternative modes of binding.
Hellinga, HW; Caradonna, JP; Richards, FM
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