American Chemical Society
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Rare Earth Element Binding and Recovery by a Beta Roll-Forming RTX Domain

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-07-10, 20:07 authored by Farid Khoury, Zihang Su, Scott Banta
The Block V of the RTX domain of the adenylate cyclase protein from Bordetella pertussis is disordered, and upon binding eight calcium ions, it folds into a beta roll domain with a C-terminal capping group. Due to their similar ionic radii and coordination geometries, trivalent lanthanide ions have been used to probe and identify calcium-binding sites in many proteins. Here, we report using a FRET-based assay that the RTX domain can bind rare earth elements (REEs) with higher affinities than calcium. The apparent disassociation constants for lanthanide ions ranged from 20 to 75 μM, which are an order of magnitude higher than the affinity for calcium, with a higher selectivity toward heavy REEs over light REEs. Most proteins release bound ions at mildly acidic conditions (pH 5–6), and the high affinity REE-binding lanmodulin protein can bind 3–4 REE ions at pH as low as ∼2.5. Circular dichroism (CD) spectra of the RTX domain demonstrate pH-induced folding of the beta roll domain in the absence of ions, indicating that protonation of key amino acids enables structure formation in low pH solutions. The beta roll domain coordinates up to four ions in extreme pH conditions (pH < 1), as determined by equilibrium ultrafiltration experiments. Finally, to demonstrate a potential application of the RTX domain, REE ions (Nd3+ and Dy3+) were recovered from other non-REEs (Fe2+ and Co2+) in a NdFeB magnet simulant solution (at pH 6).