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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jan 26;365(4):1187-200. Epub 2006 Oct 6.

Enhancing the stability and folding rate of a repeat protein through the addition of consensus repeats.

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  • 1T.C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA.


Repeat proteins are constructed from a linear array of modular units, giving rise to an overall topology lacking long-range interactions. This suggests that stabilizing repeat modules based on consensus information might be added to a repeat protein domain, allowing it to be extended without altering its overall topology. Here we add consensus modules the ankyrin repeat domain from the Drosophila Notch receptor to investigate the structural tolerance to these modules, the relative thermodynamic stability of these hybrid proteins, and how alterations in the energy landscape influence folding kinetics. Insertions of consensus modules between repeats five and six of the Notch ankyrin domain have little effect on the far and near-UV CD spectra, indicating that neither secondary nor tertiary structure is dramatically altered. Furthermore, stable structure is maintained at increased denaturant concentrations in the polypeptides containing the consensus repeats, indicating that the consensus modules are capable of stabilizing much of the domain. However, insertion of the consensus repeats appears to disrupt cooperativity, producing a two-stage (three-state) unfolding transition in which the C-terminal repeats unfold at moderate urea concentrations. Removing the C-terminal repeats (Notch ankyrin repeats six and seven) restores equilibrium two-state folding and demonstrates that the high stability of the consensus repeats is propagated into the N-terminal, naturally occurring Notch ankyrin repeats. This stability increase greatly increases the folding rate, and suggests that the transition state ensemble may be repositioned in the chimeric consensus-stabilized proteins in response to local stability.

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