Research Articles

Metal ion-dependent modulation of the dynamics of a designed protein

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Science  13 Aug 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5123, pp. 879-885
DOI: 10.1126/science.8346440


The peptide alpha 4 is a designed four-helix bundle that contains a highly simplified hydrophobic core composed exclusively of leucine residues; its tertiary structure is therefore largely dictated by hydrophobic forces. This small protein adopts a structure with properties intermediate between those of the native and molten globule states of proteins: it is compact, globular, and has very stable helices, but its apolar side chains are mobile and not as well packed as in many natural proteins. To induce a more native-like state, two Zn(2+)-binding sites were introduced into the protein, thereby replacing some of the non-specific hydrophobic interactions with more geometrically restrictive metal-ligand interactions. In the metal-bound state, this protein has properties that approach those of native proteins. Thus, hydrophobic interactions alone are sufficient to drive polypeptide chain folding nearly to completion, but specific interactions are required for a unique structure.

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