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Biochemistry. 2011 Jun 28;50(25):5583-9. doi: 10.1021/bi102040g. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Structural characterization of two alternate conformations in a calbindin D₉k-based molecular switch.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


We have demonstrated that calbindin D(9k) can be converted into a calcium-sensing switch (calbindin-AFF) by duplicating the C-terminal half of the protein (residues 44-75) and appending it to the N-terminus (creating residues 44'-75'). This re-engineering results in a ligand-driven interconversion between two native folds: the wild-type structure (N) and a circularly permuted form (N'). The switch between N and N' is predicted to involve exchange of the 44-75 and 44'-75' segments, possibly linked to their respective folding and unfolding. Here we present direct structural evidence supporting the existence of N and N'. To isolate the N' and N conformations, we introduced the knockdown Ca(2+) binding mutation Glu → Gln at position 65 (E65Q mutant) or at the analogous position 65' (E65'Q mutant). E65Q and E65'Q are therefore expected to adopt conformations N' and N, respectively, in the presence of calcium. Though the amino acid sequences of E65Q and E65'Q differ at only these two positions, nuclear magnetic resonance resonance assignments, chemical shifts, and paramagnetic relaxation enhancement data reveal that they take on separate structures when bound to calcium. Both proteins are comprised of a well-folded domain and a disordered region. However, the segment that is disordered in E65Q (residues 44-75) is folded in E65'Q, and the region that is disordered in E65'Q (residues 44'-75') is structured in E65Q. The results demonstrate that the N' N' conformational change is mediated by a mutually exclusive folding reaction in which folding of one segment of the protein is coupled to unfolding of another segment, and vice versa.

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