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Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy Reveals that Electrostatic Interactions Affect the Mechanical Stability of Proteins

TitleSingle Molecule Force Spectroscopy Reveals that Electrostatic Interactions Affect the Mechanical Stability of Proteins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsZheng, P, Cao, Y, Bu, T, Straus, SK, Li, H
JournalBIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL
Volume100
Pagination1534-1541
Date PublishedMAR 16
ISSN0006-3495
Abstract

It is well known that electrostatic interactions play important roles in determining the thermodynamic stability of proteins. However, the investigation into the role of electrostatic interactions in mechanical unfolding of proteins has just begun. Here we used single molecule atomic force microscopy techniques to directly evaluate the effect of electrostatic interactions on the mechanical stability of a small protein GB1. We engineered a bi-histidine motif into the force-bearing region of GB1. By varying the pH, histidine residues can switch between protonated and deprotonated states, leading to the change of the electrostatic interactions between the two histidine residues. We found that the mechanical unfolding force of the engineered protein decreased by similar to 34% (from 115 pN to 76 pN) on changing the pH from 8.5 to 3, due to the increased electrostatic repulsion between the two positively charged histidines at acidic pH. Our results demonstrated that electrostatic interactions can significantly affect the mechanical stability of elastomeric proteins, and modulating the electrostatic interactions of key charged residues can become a promising method for regulating the mechanical stability of elastomeric proteins.

DOI10.1016/j.bpj.2011.01.062