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Trends Biochem Sci. 2005 Sep;30(9):490-7.

Morpheeins--a new structural paradigm for allosteric regulation.

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  • 1BioMolecular Structure and Function Group, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.


Classic models for the allosteric regulation of protein function consider an equilibrium among protein structures of constant oligomeric multiplicity. The morpheein (mor-phee'-in) concept expands this model to include a dynamic equilibrium of protein structures wherein a protein monomer can exist in more than one conformation and each monomer conformation dictates a different quaternary structure of finite multiplicity and different functionality. The morpheein concept provides a new framework for understanding allosteric regulation, kinetic cooperativity and hysteresis. Porphobilinogen synthase constitutes a prototype morpheein ensemble comprising several interconverting quaternary structure isoforms; one monomer conformation dictates assembly of a high-activity octamer, whereas an alternative monomer conformation dictates assembly of a low-activity hexamer. It is proposed here that the behavior of some other allosteric enzymes reflect dynamic morpheein equilibrium systems and six candidate proteins are enumerated.

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