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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 23;110(17):6800-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1218319110. Epub 2013 Apr 8.

Rational design of a ligand-controlled protein conformational switch.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Design of a regulatable multistate protein is a challenge for protein engineering. Here we design a protein with a unique topology, called uniRapR, whose conformation is controlled by the binding of a small molecule. We confirm switching and control ability of uniRapR in silico, in vitro, and in vivo. As a proof of concept, uniRapR is used as an artificial regulatory domain to control activity of kinases. By activating Src kinase using uniRapR in single cells and whole organism, we observe two unique phenotypes consistent with its role in metastasis. Activation of Src kinase leads to rapid induction of protrusion with polarized spreading in HeLa cells, and morphological changes with loss of cell-cell contacts in the epidermal tissue of zebrafish. The rational creation of uniRapR exemplifies the strength of computational protein design, and offers a powerful means for targeted activation of many pathways to study signaling in living organisms.

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