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J Am Chem Soc. 2007 Nov 28;129(47):14661-9. Epub 2007 Nov 7.

Beta-strand flipping and slipping triggered by turn replacement reveal the opportunistic nature of beta-strand pairing.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


We investigated how the register between adjacent beta-strands is specified using a series of mutants of the single-layer beta-sheet (SLB) in Borrelia OspA. The single-layer architecture of this system eliminates structural restraints imposed by a hydrophobic core, enabling us to address this question. A critical turn (turn 9/10) in the SLB was replaced with a segment with an intentional structural mismatch. Its crystal structure revealed a one-residue insertion into the central beta-strand (strand 9) of the SLB. This insertion triggered a surprisingly large-scale structural rearrangement: (i) the central strand (strand 9) was shifted by one residue, causing the strand to flip with respect to the adjacent beta-strands and thus completely disrupting the native side-chain contacts; (ii) the three-residue turn located on the opposite end of the beta-strand (turn 8/9) was pushed into its preceding beta-strand (strand 8); (iii) the register between strands 8 and 9 was shifted by three residues. Replacing the original sequence for turn 8/9 with a stronger turn motif restored the original strand register but still with a flipped beta-strand 9. The stability differences of these distinct structures were surprisingly small, consistent with an energy landscape where multiple low-energy states with different beta-sheet configurations exist. The observed conformations can be rationalized in terms of maximizing the number of backbone H-bonds. These results suggest that adjacent beta-strands "stick" through the use of factors that are not highly sequence specific and that beta-strands could slide back and forth relatively easily in the absence of external elements such as turns and tertiary packing.

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