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PLoS One. 2010 Jun 28;5(6):e11347. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011347.

The critical role of N- and C-terminal contact in protein stability and folding of a family 10 xylanase under extreme conditions.

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  • 1International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi, India.



Stabilization strategies adopted by proteins under extreme conditions are very complex and involve various kinds of interactions. Recent studies have shown that a large proportion of proteins have their N- and C-terminal elements in close contact and suggested they play a role in protein folding and stability. However, the biological significance of this contact remains elusive.


In the present study, we investigate the role of N- and C-terminal residue interaction using a family 10 xylanase (BSX) with a TIM-barrel structure that shows stability under high temperature, alkali pH, and protease and SDS treatment. Based on crystal structure, an aromatic cluster was identified that involves Phe4, Trp6 and Tyr343 holding the N- and C-terminus together; this is a unique and important feature of this protein that might be crucial for folding and stability under poly-extreme conditions.


A series of mutants was created to disrupt this aromatic cluster formation and study the loss of stability and function under given conditions. While the deletions of Phe4 resulted in loss of stability, removal of Trp6 and Tyr343 affected in vivo folding and activity. Alanine substitution with Phe4, Trp6 and Tyr343 drastically decreased stability under all parameters studied. Importantly, substitution of Phe4 with Trp increased stability in SDS treatment. Mass spectrometry results of limited proteolysis further demonstrated that the Arg344 residue is highly susceptible to trypsin digestion in sensitive mutants such as DeltaF4, W6A and Y343A, suggesting again that disruption of the Phe4-Trp6-Tyr343 (F-W-Y) cluster destabilizes the N- and C-terminal interaction. Our results underscore the importance of N- and C-terminal contact through aromatic interactions in protein folding and stability under extreme conditions, and these results may be useful to improve the stability of other proteins under suboptimal conditions.

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