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J Mol Graph Model. 2007 Jul;26(1):93-103. Epub 2006 Sep 30.

Optimization of electrostatics as a strategy for cold-adaptation: a case study of cold- and warm-active elastases.

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The Norwegian Structural Biology Centre, Department of Chemistry, University of Tromsø, N9037 Tromsø, Norway.


Adaptation to both high and low temperatures requires proteins with special properties. While organisms living at or close to the boiling point of water need to have proteins with increased stability, other properties are required at temperatures close to the freezing point of water. Indeed, it has been shown that enzymes adapted to cold environments are less resistant to heat with a concomitant increased activity as compared to their warm-active counter-parts. Several recent studies have pointed in the direction that electrostatic interactions play a central role in temperature adaptation, and in this study we investigate the role such interactions have in adaptation of elastase from Atlantic salmon and pig. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to generate structural ensembles at 283 and 310 K of the psychrophilic and mesophilic elastase, and a total of eight 12 ns simulations have been carried out. Even though the two homologues have a highly similar three-dimensional structure, the location and number of charged amino acids are very different. Based on the simulated structures we find that very few salt-bridges are stable throughout the simulations, and provide little stabilization/destabilization of the proteins as judged by continuum electrostatic calculations. However, the mesophilic elastase is characterized by a greater number of salt-bridges as well as a putative salt-bridge network close to the catalytic site, indicating a higher rigidity of the components involved in the catalytic cycle. In addition, subtle differences are also found in the electrostatic potentials in the vicinity of the catalytic residues, which may explain the increased catalytic efficiency of the cold-adapted elastase.

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