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Cell. 2002 Dec 27;111(7):1027-39.

Directed evolution of substrate-optimized GroEL/S chaperonins.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


GroEL/S chaperonin ring complexes fold many unrelated proteins. To understand the basis and extent of the chaperonin substrate spectrum, we used rounds of selection and DNA shuffling to obtain GroEL/S variants that dramatically enhanced folding of a single substrate-green fluorescent protein (GFP). Changes in the substrate-optimized chaperonins increase the polarity of the folding cavity and alter the ATPase cycle. These findings reveal a surprising plasticity of GroEL/S, which can be exploited to aid folding of recombinant proteins. Our studies also reveal a conflict between specialization and generalization of chaperonins as increased GFP folding comes at the expense of the ability of GroEL/S to fold its natural substrates. This conflict and the nature of the ring structure may help explain the evolution of cellular chaperone systems.

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