Jan 2012 Molecular bioSystems

Understanding the structural ensembles of a highly extended disordered protein.


Daughdrill GW, Kashtanov S, Stancik A, Hill SE, Helms G, Muschol M, Receveur-Bréchot V, Ytreberg FM


Developing a comprehensive description of the equilibrium structural ensembles for intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) is essential to understanding their function. The p53 transactivation domain (p53TAD) is an IDP that interacts with multiple protein partners and contains numerous phosphorylation sites. Multiple techniques were used to investigate the equilibrium structural ensemble of p53TAD in its native and chemically unfolded states. The results from these experiments show that the native state of p53TAD has dimensions similar to a classical random coil while the chemically unfolded state is more extended. To investigate the molecular properties responsible for this behavior, a novel algorithm that generates diverse and unbiased structural ensembles of IDPs was developed. This algorithm was used to generate a large pool of plausible p53TAD structures that were reweighted to identify a subset of structures with the best fit to small angle X-ray scattering data. High weight structures in the native state ensemble show features that are localized to protein binding sites and regions with high proline content. The features localized to the protein binding sites are mostly eliminated in the chemically unfolded ensemble; while, the regions with high proline content remain relatively unaffected. Data from NMR experiments support these results, showing that residues from the protein binding sites experience larger environmental changes upon unfolding by urea than regions with high proline content. This behavior is consistent with the urea-induced exposure of nonpolar and aromatic side-chains in the protein binding sites that are partially excluded from solvent in the native state ensemble.

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