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FEBS J. 2011 Jul;278(13):2333-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08154.x. Epub 2011 May 25.

How to remain nonfolded and pliable: the linkers in modular α-amylases as a case study.

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Center for Protein Engineering, University of Liège, Liège-Sart Tilman, Belgium.


The primary structure of linkers in a new class of modular α-amylases constitutes a paradigm of the structural basis that allows a polypeptide to remain nonfolded, extended and pliable. Unfolding is mediated through a depletion of hydrophobic residues and an enrichment of hydrophilic residues, amongst which Ser and Thr are over-represented. An extended and flexible conformation is promoted by the sequential arrangement of Pro and Gly, which are the most abundant residues in these linkers. This is complemented by charge repulsion, charge clustering and disulfide-bridged loops. Molecular dynamics simulations suggest the existence of conformational transitions resulting from a transient and localized hydrophobic collapse, arising from the peculiar composition of the linkers. Accordingly, these linkers should not be regarded as fully disordered, but rather as possessing various discrete structural patterns allowing them to fulfill their biological function as a free energy reservoir for concerted motions between structured domains.

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