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05 2016 Archives of biochemistry and biophysics

Determinants of the pKa values of ionizable residues in an intrinsically disordered protein.


Neira JL, Rizzuti B, Iovanna JL


Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are prevalent in eukaryotes; in humans, they are often associated with diseases. The protein NUPR1 is a multifunctional IDP involved in the development and progression of pancreatic cancer; therefore, it constitutes a target for drug design. In an effort to contribute to the understanding of the conformational features of NUPR1 and to provide clues on amino acid interactions in disordered states of proteins, we measured the pKa values of all its acidic groups (aspartic and glutamic residues, and backbone C terminus) by using NMR spectroscopy at low (100 mM) and high (500 mM) NaCl concentration. At low ionic strength, the pKa values were similar to those reported for random-coil models, except for Glu18 and Asp19, suggesting electrostatic interactions around these residues. Molecular modelling and simulation indicate an additional, significant role of nearby proline residues in determining the polypeptide conformational features and water accessibility in the region around Glu18, modulating the titration properties of these amino acids. In the other acidic residues of NUPR1, the small deviations of pKa values (compared to those expected for a random-coil) are likely due to electrostatic interactions with charged adjacent residues, which should be reduced at high NaCl concentrations. In fact, at high ionic strength, the pKa values of the aspartic residues were similar to those in a random coil, but there were still small differences for those of glutamic acids, probably due to hydrogen-bond formation. The overall findings suggest that local interactions and hydrophobic effects play a major role in determining the electrostatic features of NUPR1, whereas long-range charge contributions appear to be of lesser importance.

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