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Thermodynamic Analysis of Cavity Creating Mutations in an Engineered Leucine Zipper and Energetics of Glycerol-Induced Coiled Coil Stabilization

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journal contribution
posted on 24.03.2000, 00:00 by Eberhard Dürr, Ilian Jelesarov
Protein stability in vitro can be influenced either by introduction of mutations or by changes in the chemical composition of the solvent. Recently, we have characterized the thermodynamic stability and the rate of folding of the engineered dimeric leucine zipper A2, which has a strengthened hydrophobic core [Dürr, E., Jelesarov, I., and Bosshard, H. R. (1999) Biochemistry 38, 870−880]. Here we report on the energetic consequences of a cavity introduced by Leu/Ala substitution at the tightly packed dimeric interface and how addition of 30% glycerol affects the folding thermodynamics of A2 and the cavity mutants. Folding could be described by a two-state transition from two unfolded monomers to a coiled coil dimer. Removal of six methylene groups by Leu/Ala substitutions destabilized the dimeric coiled coil by 25 kJ mol-1 at pH 3.5 and 25 °C in aqueous buffer. Destabilization was purely entropic at around room temperature and became increasingly enthalpic at elevated temperatures. Mutations were accompanied by a decrease of the unfolding heat capacity by 0.5 kJ K-1 mol-1. Addition of 30% glycerol increased the free energy of folding of A2 and the cavity mutants by 5−10 kJ mol-1 and lowered the unfolding heat capacity by 25% for A2 and by 50% for the Leu/Ala mutants. The origin of the stabilizing effect of glycerol varied with temperature. Stabilization of the parent leucine zipper A2 was enthalpic with an unfavorable entropic component between 0 and 100 °C. In the case of cavity mutants, glycerol induced enthalpic stabilization below 50 °C and entropic stabilization above 50 °C. The effect of glycerol could not be accounted for solely by the enthalpy and entropy of transfer or protein surface from water to glycerol/water mixture. We propose that in the presence of glycerol the folded coiled coil dimer is better packed and displays less intramolecular fluctuations, leading to enhanced enthalpic interactions and to an increase of the entropy of folding. This work demonstrates that mutational and solvent effects on protein stability can be thermodynamically complex and that it may not be sufficient to only analyze changes of enthalpy and entropy at the unfolding temperature (Tm) to understand the mechanisms of protein stabilization.