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Mol Biosyst. 2011 Apr;7(4):984-92. doi: 10.1039/c1mb05012e. Epub 2011 Feb 7.

Function and structure of GFP-like proteins in the protein data bank.

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Chemistry Department, Connecticut College, New London, CT 06320, USA.


The RCSB protein databank contains 266 crystal structures of green fluorescent proteins (GFP) and GFP-like proteins. This is the first systematic analysis of all the GFP-like structures in the pdb. We have used the pdb to examine the function of fluorescent proteins (FP) in nature, aspects of excited state proton transfer (ESPT) in FPs, deformation from planarity of the chromophore and chromophore maturation. The conclusions reached in this review are that (1) The lid residues are highly conserved, particularly those on the "top" of the β-barrel. They are important to the function of GFP-like proteins, perhaps in protecting the chromophore or in β-barrel formation. (2) The primary/ancestral function of GFP-like proteins may well be to aid in light induced electron transfer. (3) The structural prerequisites for light activated proton pumps exist in many structures and it's possible that like bioluminescence, proton pumps are secondary functions of GFP-like proteins. (4) In most GFP-like proteins the protein matrix exerts a significant strain on planar chromophores forcing most GFP-like proteins to adopt non-planar chromophores. These chromophoric deviations from planarity play an important role in determining the fluorescence quantum yield. (5) The chemospatial characteristics of the chromophore cavity determine the isomerization state of the chromophore. The cavities of highlighter proteins that can undergo cis/trans isomerization have chemospatial properties that are common to both cis and trans GFP-like proteins.

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