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Blood. 2001 Sep 15;98(6):1645-53.

Dynamic molecular modeling of pathogenic mutations in the spectrin self-association domain.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.


Disruption of spectrin self-association underlies many inherited hemolytic disorders. Using dynamic modeling and energy minimization, the 3-dimensional structure of the self-association domain has been estimated in human erythrocyte spectrin and the structural consequences of 17 elliptogenic mutations determined. The predicted structure of the normal self-association domain was remarkably similar to the crystal structure of the Drosophila alpha-spectrin 14th repeat unit, despite replacement in the human sequence of over 70% of the amino acids relative to fly spectrin, including 2 prolines in the human sequence that appear in helical regions of the fly structure. The predicted structure placed all hydrophilic residues at the surface and identified 4 salt bridges, 9 hydrophobic interactions, and 4 H-bonds that stabilize the native self-association unit. Remarkably, every pathologic point mutation, including seemingly conservative substitutions such as G for A, A for V, or K for R (single-letter amino acid codes), led to conformational rearrangements in the predicted structure. The degree of structural disruption, as measured by root-mean-square deviation of the predicted backbone structure from the Drosophila structure, correlated strongly with the severity of clinical disease associated with each mutation. This approach thus enables an accurate prediction, from the primary sequence, of the clinical consequences of specific point mutations in spectrin. The 3-dimensional structure of the self-association domain derived here is likely to be accurate. It provides a powerful heuristic model for understanding how point mutations disrupt cytoskeletal function in a variety of hemolytic disorders.

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