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Nat Methods. 2013 Sep;10(9):896-902. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2592. Epub 2013 Aug 4.

Automated identification of functional dynamic contact networks from X-ray crystallography.

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Joint Center for Structural Genomics, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Stanford, California, USA.


Protein function often depends on the exchange between conformational substates. Allosteric ligand binding or distal mutations can stabilize specific active-site conformations and consequently alter protein function. Observing alternative conformations at low levels of electron density, in addition to comparison of independently determined X-ray crystal structures, can provide mechanistic insights into conformational dynamics. Here we report a new algorithm, CONTACT, that identifies contact networks of conformationally heterogeneous residues directly from high-resolution X-ray crystallography data. Contact networks determined for Escherichia coli dihydrofolate reductase (ecDHFR) predict the observed long-range pattern of NMR chemical shift perturbations of an allosteric mutation. A comparison of contact networks in wild-type and mutant ecDHFR suggests that mutations that alter optimized contact networks of coordinated motions can impair catalytic function. CONTACT-guided mutagenesis can exploit the structure-dynamics-function relationship in protein engineering and design.

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