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J Phys Chem B. 2013 Sep 19;117(37):10750-8. doi: 10.1021/jp405897q. Epub 2013 Sep 9.

Endoglucanase peripheral loops facilitate complexation of glucan chains on cellulose via adaptive coupling to the emergent substrate structures.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California , Berkeley, California 94704, United States.


We examine how the catalytic domain of a glycoside hydrolase family 7 endoglucanase catalytic domain (Cel7B CD) facilitates complexation of cellulose chains from a crystal surface. With direct relevance to the science of biofuel production, this problem also represents a model system of biopolymer processing by proteins in Nature. Interactions of Cel7B CD with a cellulose microfibril along different paths of complexation are characterized by mapping the atomistic fluctuations recorded in free-energy simulations onto the parameters of a coarse-grain model. The resulting patterns of protein-biopolymer couplings also uncover the sequence signatures of the enzyme in peeling off glucan chains from the microfibril substrate. We show that the semiopen active site of Cel7B CD exhibits similar barriers and free energies of complexation over two distinct routes; namely, scooping of a chain into the active-site cleft and threading from the chain end into the channel. On the other hand, the complexation energetics strongly depends on the surface packing of the targeted chain and the resulting interaction sites with the enzyme. A revealed principle is that Cel7B CD facilitates cellulose deconstruction via adaptive coupling to the emergent substrate. The flexible, peripheral segments of the protein outside of the active-site cleft are able to accommodate the varying features of cellulose along the simulated paths of complexation. The general strategy of linking physics-based molecular interactions to protein sequence could also be helpful in elucidating how other protein machines process biopolymers.

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