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Protein Sci. 2009 Jan;18(1):180-95. doi: 10.1002/pro.2.

OptGraft: A computational procedure for transferring a binding site onto an existing protein scaffold.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802 , USA.


One of the many challenging tasks of protein design is the introduction of a completely new function into an existing protein scaffold. In this study, we introduce a new computational procedure OptGraft for placing a novel binding pocket onto a protein structure so as its geometry is minimally perturbed. This is accomplished by introducing a two-level procedure where we first identify where are the most appropriate locations to graft the new binding pocket into the protein fold by minimizing the departure from a set of geometric restraints using mixed-integer linear optimization. On identifying the suitable locations that can accommodate the new binding pocket, CHARMM energy calculations are employed to identify what mutations in the neighboring residues, if any, are needed to ensure that the minimum energy conformation of the binding pocket conserves the desired geometry. This computational framework is benchmarked against the results available in the literature for engineering a copper binding site into thioredoxin protein. Subsequently, OptGraft is used to guide the transfer of a calcium-binding pocket from thermitase protein (PDB: 1thm) into the first domain of CD2 protein (PDB:1hng). Experimental characterization of three de novo redesigned proteins with grafted calcium-binding centers demonstrated that they all exhibit high affinities for terbium (Kd) approximately 22, 38, and 55 microM) and can selectively bind calcium over magnesium.

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