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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Apr 11;92(8):3180-4.

Intersubunit contacts made by tryptophan 120 with biotin are essential for both strong biotin binding and biotin-induced tighter subunit association of streptavidin.

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  • 1Center for Advanced Biotechnology, Boston University, MA 02215, USA.


In natural streptavidin, tryptophan 120 of each subunit makes contacts with the biotin bound by an adjacent subunit through the dimer-dimer interface. To understand quantitatively the role of tryptophan 120 and its intersubunit communication in the properties of streptavidin, a streptavidin mutant in which tryptophan 120 is converted to phenylalanine was produced and characterized. The streptavidin mutant forms a tetrameric molecule and binds one biotin per subunit, as does natural streptavidin, indicating that the mutation of tryptophan 120 to phenylalanine has no significant effect on the basic properties of streptavidin. However, its biotin-binding affinity was reduced substantially, to approximately 10(8) M-1, indicating that the contact made by tryptophan 120 to biotin has a considerable contribution to the extremely tight biotin binding by streptavidin. The mutant retained bound biotin over a wide pH range or with the addition of urea up to 6 M at neutral pH. However, bound biotin was efficiently released by the addition of excess free biotin due, presumably, to exchange reactions. Electrophoretic analysis revealed that the intersubunit contact made by tryptophan 120 to biotin through the dimer-dimer interface is the major interaction responsible for the biotin-induced, tighter subunit association of streptavidin. In addition, the mutant has weaker subunit association than natural streptavidin even in the absence of biotin, indicating that tryptophan 120 also contributes to the subunit association of tetramers in the absence of biotin.

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