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Biochem Cell Biol. 1998;76(2-3):313-23.

Molecular mechanisms of calmodulin's functional versatility.

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Department of Biochemistry, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, People's Republic of China.


Calmodulin (CaM) is a primary Ca2+-binding protein found in all eukaryotic cells. It couples the intracellular Ca2+ signal to many essential cellular events by binding and regulating the activities of more than 40 different proteins and enzymes in a Ca2+-dependent manner. CaM contains two structurally similar domains connected by a flexible central linker. Each domain of the protein binds two Ca2+ ions with positive cooperativity. The binding of Ca2+ transforms the protein into its active form through a reorientation of the existing helices of the protein. The two helices in each helix-loop-helix Ca2+-binding motif are almost antiparallel in Ca2+-free CaM. The binding of Ca2+ induces concerted helical pair movements and changes the two helices in each Ca2+ binding motif to a nearly perpendicular orientation. These concerted helix pair movements are accompanied by dramatic changes on the molecular surface of the protein. Rather than exhibiting a flat, hydrophilic molecular surface as seen in Ca2+-free CaM, the Ca2+-saturated form of the protein contains a Met-rich, cavity-containing hydrophobic surface in each domain. These hydrophobic surfaces are largely responsible for the binding of CaM to its targets. The unique flexibility and high polarizability of the Met residues located at the entrance of each hydrophobic pocket together with other hydrophobic amino acid residues create adjustable, sticky interaction surface areas that can accommodate CaM's targets, which have various sizes and shapes. Therefore, CaM is able to bind to a large array of targets without obvious sequence homology. Upon binding to its target peptides, the unwinding of the central linker allows the two domains of the protein to engulf the hydrophobic face of target peptides of differing lengths. The binding of Ca2+ reduces the backbone flexibility of CaM. Formation of complexes with its target peptides further decreases the backbone motion of CaM.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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