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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jan 5;365(1):226-36. Epub 2006 Oct 11.

Low resolution crystal structure of Arenicola erythrocruorin: influence of coiled coils on the architecture of a megadalton respiratory protein.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


Annelid erythrocruorins are extracellular respiratory complexes assembled from 180 subunits into hexagonal bilayers. Cryo-electron microscopic experiments have identified two different architectural classes. In one, designated type I, the vertices of the two hexagonal layers are partially staggered, with one hexagonal layer rotated by about 16 degrees relative to the other layer, whereas in the other class, termed type II, the vertices are essentially eclipsed. We report here the first crystal structure of a type II erythrocruorin, that from Arenicola marina, at 6.2 A resolution. The structure reveals the presence of long continuous triple-stranded coiled-coil "spokes" projecting towards the molecular center from each one-twelfth unit; interdigitation of these spokes provides the only contacts between the two hexagonal layers of the complex. This arrangement contrasts with that of a type I erythrocruorin from Lumbricus terrestris in which the spokes are broken into two triple-stranded coiled coils with a disjointed connection. The disjointed connection allows formation of a more compact structure in the type I architecture, with the two hexagonal layers closer together and additional extensive contacts between the layers. Comparison of sequences of the coiled-coil regions of various linker subunits shows that the linker subunits from type II erythrocruorins possess continuous heptad repeats, whereas a sequence gap places these repeats out of register in the type I linker subunits, consistent with a disjointed coiled-coil arrangement.

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