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Biophys J. 2001 Sep;81(3):1677-83.

Structure of type I antifreeze protein and mutants in supercooled water.

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CIHR Group in Protein Structure and Function, Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H7, Canada.


Many organisms are able to survive subzero temperatures at which bodily fluids would normally be expected to freeze. These organisms have adapted to these lower temperatures by synthesizing antifreeze proteins (AFPs), capable of binding to ice, which make further growth of ice energetically unfavorable. To date, the structures of five AFPs have been determined, and they show considerable sequence and structural diversity. The type I AFP reveals a single 37-residue alpha-helical structure. We have studied the behavior of wild-type type I AFP and two "inactive" mutants (Ala17Leu and Thr13Ser/Thr24Ser) in normal and supercooled solutions of H(2)O and deuterium oxide (D(2)O) to see if the structure at temperatures below the equilibrium freezing point is different from the structure observed at above freezing temperatures. Analysis of 1D (1)H- and (13)C-NMR spectra illustrate that all three proteins remain folded as the temperature is lowered and even seem to become more alpha-helical as evidenced by (13)C(alpha)-NMR chemical shift changes. Furthermore, (13)C-T(2) NMR relaxation measurements demonstrate that the rotational correlation times of all three proteins behave in a predictable manner under all temperatures and conditions studied. These data have important implications for the structure of the AFP bound to ice as well as the mechanisms for ice-binding and protein oligomerization.

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