, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 23-30
Date: 28 Nov 2007

Structure discrimination for the C-terminal domain of Escherichia coli trigger factor in solution

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NMR measurements can give important information on solution structure, without the necessity for a full-scale solution structure determination. The C-terminal protein binding domain of the ribosome-associated chaperone protein trigger factor is composed of non-contiguous parts of the polypeptide chain, with an interpolated prolyl isomerase domain. A construct of the C-terminal domain of Escherichia coli trigger factor containing residues 113–149 and 247–432, joined by a Gly-Ser-Gly-Ser linker, is well folded and gives excellent NMR spectra in solution. We have used NMR measurements on this construct, and on a longer construct that includes the prolyl isomerase domain, to distinguish between two possible structures for the C-terminal domain of trigger factor, and to assess the behavior of the trigger factor C-terminal domain in solution. Two X-ray crystal structures, of intact trigger factor from E. coli (Ferbitz et al., Nature 431:590–596, 2004), and of a truncated trigger factor from Vibrio cholerae (Ludlam et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:13436–13441, 2004) showed significant differences in the structure of the C-terminal domain, such that the two structures could not be superimposed. We show using NMR chemical shifts and long range nuclear Overhauser effects that the secondary and tertiary structure of the E. coli C-terminal domain in solution is consistent with the crystal structure of the E. coli trigger factor and not with the V. cholerae protein. Given the similarity of the amino acid sequences of the E. coli and V. cholerae proteins, it appears likely that the structure of the V. cholerae protein has been distorted as a result of truncation of a 44-amino acid segment at the C-terminus. Analysis of residual dipolar coupling measurements shows that the overall topology of the solution structure is completely inconsistent with both structures. Dynamics analysis of the C-terminal domain using T1, T2 and heteronuclear NOE parameters show that the protein is overall rather flexible. These results indicate that the structure of this domain in solution resembles the X-ray crystal structure of the E. coli protein in secondary structure and at least some tertiary contacts, but that the overall topology differs in solution, probably due to structural fluctuation.