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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(10):e1002696. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002696. Epub 2012 Oct 4.

Prediction and dissection of widely-varying association rate constants of actin-binding proteins.

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  • 1Department of Physics and Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, United States of America.


Actin is an abundant protein that constitutes a main component of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. Its polymerization and depolymerization are regulated by a variety of actin-binding proteins. Their functions range from nucleation of actin polymerization to sequestering G-actin in 1∶1 complexes. The kinetics of forming these complexes, with rate constants varying at least three orders of magnitude, is critical to the distinct regulatory functions. Previously we have developed a transient-complex theory for computing protein association mechanisms and association rate constants. The transient complex refers to an intermediate in which the two associating proteins have near-native separation and relative orientation but have yet to form short-range specific interactions of the native complex. The association rate constant is predicted as k(a) = k(a0) e(-ΔG(el*)/k(B)T), where k(a0) is the basal rate constant for reaching the transient complex by free diffusion, and the Boltzmann factor captures the bias of long-range electrostatic interactions. Here we applied the transient-complex theory to study the association kinetics of seven actin-binding proteins with G-actin. These proteins exhibit three classes of association mechanisms, due to their different molecular shapes and flexibility. The 1000-fold k(a) variations among them can mostly be attributed to disparate electrostatic contributions. The basal rate constants also showed variations, resulting from the different shapes and sizes of the interfaces formed by the seven actin-binding proteins with G-actin. This study demonstrates the various ways that actin-binding proteins use physical properties to tune their association mechanisms and rate constants to suit distinct regulatory functions.

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