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Impact of N-Terminal Acetylation of α-Synuclein on Its Random Coil and Lipid Binding Properties

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 21:32 by Alexander S. Maltsev, Jinfa Ying, Ad Bax
N-Terminal acetylation of α-synuclein (aS), a protein implicated in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease, is common in mammals. The impact of this modification on the protein’s structure and dynamics in free solution and on its membrane binding properties has been evaluated by high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. While no tetrameric form of acetylated aS could be isolated, N-terminal acetylation resulted in chemical shift perturbations of the first 12 residues of the protein that progressively decreased with the distance from the N-terminus. The directions of the chemical shift changes and small changes in backbone 3JHH couplings are consistent with an increase in the α-helicity of the first six residues of aS, although a high degree of dynamic conformational disorder remains and the helical structure is sampled <20% of the time. Chemical shift and 3JHH data for the intact protein are virtually indistinguishable from those recorded for the corresponding N-terminally acetylated and nonacetylated 15-residue synthetic peptides. An increase in α-helicity at the N-terminus of aS is supported by CD data on the acetylated peptide and by weak medium-range nuclear Overhauser effect contacts indicative of α-helical character. The remainder of the protein has chemical shift values that are very close to random coil values and indistinguishable between the two forms of the protein. No significant differences in the fibrillation kinetics were observed between acetylated and nonacetylated aS. However, the lipid binding properties of aS are strongly impacted by acetylation and exhibit distinct behavior for the first 12 residues, indicative of an initiation role for the N-terminal residues in an “initiation–elongation” process of binding to the membrane.