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J Mol Biol. 1988 Dec 5;204(3):783-7.

Sulfate-binding protein dislikes protonated oxyacids. A molecular explanation.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030.


We have determined the effect of pH on the binding affinities of the conjugate bases of four different tetrahedral oxyacids to the sulfate-binding protein. The equilibrium dissociation constants of the binding of sulfate (Kd = 0.12 microM) and selenate (Kd = 5 microM) were found to be pH independent over the range pH 5 to pH 8.1, whereas chromate binding exhibited a pH dependence that is approximately attributable to the pK2 of the chromic acid. Phosphate was bound with an affinity five orders of magnitude weaker than that of sulfate. In light of the highly refined 2 A structure of the complex of the sulfate-binding protein with sulfate, and considering the protonation state and net charge of the various oxyacids, we conclude that the pH dependence of chromate binding and the extremely low affinity of phosphate are attributable mainly to a lack of hydrogen bond acceptors in the binding site. These studies demonstrate that the sulfate-binding site is stringently designed to bind tightly tetrahedral, fully ionized, oxyacid dianions. The presence of a donatable proton on the ligand reduces binding energy by approximately 7 kcal/mol.

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