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Biochemistry. 2004 Dec 28;43(51):16525-31.

Kinetic stability of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase is dependent on its metal ligands: implications for ALS.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, New York 12180, USA.


Over 100 mutants of the enzyme Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) have been implicated in the neurodegenerative disease familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS). Growing evidence suggests that the aggregation of SOD mutants may play a causative role in FALS and that aberrant copper chemistry, decreased thermodynamic stability, and decreased affinity for metals may contribute independently or synergistically to this process. Since the loss of the copper and zinc ions significantly decreases the thermodynamic stability of SOD, it is expected that this would also decrease its kinetic stability, thereby facilitating partial or global unfolding transitions that may lead to misfolding and aggregation. Here we used wild-type (WT) SOD and five FALS-related mutants (G37R, H46R, G85R, D90A, and L144F) to show that the metals contribute significantly to the kinetic stability of the protein, with demetalated (apo) SOD showing acid-induced unfolding rates about 60-fold greater than the metalated (holo) protein. However, the unfolding rates of SOD WT and mutants were similar to each other in both the holo and apo states, indicating that regardless of the effect of mutation on thermodynamic stability, the kinetic barrier toward SOD unfolding is dependent on the presence of metals. Thus, these results suggest that pathogenic SOD mutations that do not significantly alter the stability of the protein may still lead to SOD aggregation by compromising its ability to bind or retain its metals and thereby decrease its kinetic stability. Furthermore, the mutant-like decrease in the kinetic stability of apo WT SOD raises the possibility that the loss of metals in WT SOD may be involved in nonfamilial forms of ALS.

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