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Biochemistry. 2005 Aug 30;44(34):11496-507.

Clusters in an intrinsically disordered protein create a protein-binding site: the TolB-binding region of colicin E9.

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School of Chemical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom.


The 61-kDa colicin E9 protein toxin enters the cytoplasm of susceptible cells by interacting with outer membrane and periplasmic helper proteins and kills them by hydrolyzing their DNA. The membrane translocation function is located in the N-terminal domain of the colicin, with a key signal sequence being a pentapeptide region that governs the interaction with the helper protein TolB (the TolB box). Previous NMR studies [Collins et al. (2002) J. Mol. Biol. 318, 787-904; MacDonald et al. (2004), J. Biomol. NMR 30, 81-96] have shown that the N-terminal 83 residues of colicin E9, which includes the TolB box, is intrinsically disordered and contains clusters of interacting side chains. To further define the properties of this region of colicin E9, we have investigated the effects on the dynamical and TolB-binding properties of three mutations of colicin E9 that inactivate it as a toxin. The mutations were contained in a fusion protein consisting of residues 1-61 of colicin E9 connected to the N terminus of the E9 DNase by an eight-residue linking sequence. The NMR data reveals that the mutations cause major alterations to the properties of some of the clusters, consistent with some form of association between them and other more distant parts of the amino acid sequence, particularly toward the N terminus of the protein. However, (15)N T(2) measurements indicates that residues 5-13 of the fusion protein bound to the 43-kDa TolB remain as flexible as they are in the free protein. The NMR data point to considerable dynamic ordering within the intrinsically disordered translocation domain of the colicin that is important for creating the TolB-binding site. Furthermore, amino acid sequence considerations suggest that the clusters of amino acids occur because of the size and polarities of the side chains forming them influenced by the propensities of the residues within the clusters and those immediately surrounding them in sequence space to form beta turns.

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