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Protein Sci. Jun 1999; 8(6): 1241–1249.
PMCID: PMC2144363

Oligomeric integrity--the structural key to thermal stability in bacterial alcohol dehydrogenases.


Principles of protein thermostability have been studied by comparing structures of thermostable proteins with mesophilic counterparts that have a high degree of sequence identity. Two tetrameric NADP(H)-dependent alcohol dehydrogenases, one from Clostridium beijerinckii (CBADH) and the other from Thermoanaerobacter brockii (TBADH), having exceptionally high (75%) sequence identity, differ by 30 degrees in their melting temperatures. The crystal structures of CBADH and TBADH in their holo-enzyme form have been determined at a resolution of 2.05 and 2.5 A, respectively. Comparison of these two very similar structures (RMS difference in Calpha = 0.8 A) revealed several features that can account for the higher thermal stability of TBADH. These include additional ion pairs, "charged-neutral" hydrogen bonds, and prolines as well as improved stability of alpha-helices and tighter molecular packing. However, a deeper structural insight, based on the location of stabilizing elements, suggests that enhanced thermal stability of TBADH is due mainly to the strategic placement of structural determinants at positions that strengthen the interface between its subunits. This is also supported by mutational analysis of structural elements at critical locations. Thus, it is the reinforcement of the quaternary structure that is most likely to be a primary factor in preserving enzymatic activity of this oligomeric bacterial ADH at elevated temperatures.

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