, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 167-180
Date: 04 Mar 2005

Modulation of zinc- and cobalt-binding affinities through changes in the stability of the zinc ribbon protein L36

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Cysteine-rich Zn(II)-binding sites in proteins serve two distinct functions: to template or stabilize specific protein folds, and to facilitate chemical reactions such as alkyl transfers. We are interested how the protein environment controls metal site properties, specifically, how naturally occurring tetrahedral Zn(II) sites are affected by the surrounding protein. We have studied the Co(II)- and Zn(II)-binding of a series of derivatives of L36, a small zinc ribbon protein containing a (Cys)3His metal coordination site. UV–vis spectroscopy was used to monitor metal binding by peptides at pH 6.0. For all derivatives, the following trends were observed: (1) Zn(II) binds tighter than Co(II), with an average K A Zn /K A Co of 2.8(±2.0)×103; (2) mutation of the metal-binding ligand His32 to Cys decreases the affinity of L36 derivatives for both metals; (3) a Tyr24 to Trp mutation in the β-sheet hydrophobic cluster increases K A Zn and K A Co ; (4) mutation in the β-hairpin turn, His20 to Asn generating an Asn-Gly turn, also increases K A Zn and K A Co ; (5) the combination of His20 to Asn and Tyr24 to Trp mutations also increases K A Zn and K A Co , but the increments versus C3H are less than those of the single mutations. Furthermore, circular dichroism, size-exclusion chromatography, and 1D and 2D 1H NMR experiments show that the mutations do not change the overall fold or association state of the proteins. L36, displaying Co(II)- and Zn(II)-binding sensitivity to various sequence mutations without undergoing a change in protein structure, can therefore serve as a useful model system for future structure/reactivity studies.