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Biochemistry. 2012 Dec 4;51(48):9595-602. doi: 10.1021/bi301413y. Epub 2012 Nov 15.

Metamorphic protein IscU changes conformation by cis-trans isomerizations of two peptidyl-prolyl peptide bonds.

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Graduate Program in Biophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


IscU from Escherichia coli, the scaffold protein for iron-sulfur cluster biosynthesis and transfer, populates two conformational states with similar free energies and with lifetimes on the order of 1 s that interconvert in an apparent two-state reaction. One state (S) is structured, and the other (D) is largely disordered; however, both play essential functional roles. We report here nuclear magnetic resonance studies demonstrating that all four prolyl residues of apo-IscU (P14, P35, P100, and P101) are trans in the S state but that two absolutely conserved residues (P14 and P101) become cis in the D state. The peptidyl-prolyl peptide bond configurations were determined by analyzing assigned chemical shifts and were confirmed by measurements of nuclear Overhauser effects. We conclude that the S ⇄ D interconversion involves concerted trans-cis isomerization of the N13-P14 and P100-P101 peptide bonds. Although the D state is largely disordered, we show that it contains an ordered domain that accounts for the stabilization of two high-energy cis peptide bonds. Thus, IscU may be classified as a metamorphic protein.

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