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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 10;94(12):6153-8.

Engineering subunit association of multisubunit proteins: a dimeric streptavidin.

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  • 1Center for Advanced Biotechnology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


A dimeric streptavidin has been designed by molecular modeling using effective binding free energy calculations that decompose the binding free energy into electrostatic, desolvation, and side chain entropy loss terms. A histidine-127 --> aspartic acid (H127D) mutation was sufficient to introduce electrostatic repulsion between subunits that prevents the formation of the natural tetramer. However, the high hydrophobicity of the dimer-dimer interface, which would be exposed to solvent in a dimeric streptavidin, suggests that the resulting molecule would have very low solubility in aqueous media. In agreement with the calculations, a streptavidin containing the H127D mutation formed insoluble aggregates. Thus, the major design goal was to reduce the hydrophobicity of the dimer-dimer interface while maintaining the fundamental structure. Free energy calculations suggested that the hydrophobicity of the dimer-dimer interface could be reduced significantly by deleting a loop from G113 through W120 that should have no apparent contact with biotin in a dimeric molecule. The resulting protein, containing both the H127D mutation and the loop deletion, formed a soluble dimeric streptavidin in the presence of biotin.

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