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The stability of thermophilic proteins: a study based on comprehensive genome comparison

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We address the question of the thermal stability of proteins in thermophiles through comprehensive genome comparison, focussing on the occurrence of salt bridges. We compared a set of 12 genomes (from four thermophilic archaeons, one eukaryote, six mesophilic eubacteria, and one thermophilic eubacteria). Our results showed that thermophiles have a greater content of charged residues than mesophiles, both at the overall genomic level and in alpha helices. Furthermore, we found that in thermophiles the charged residues in helices tend to be preferentially arranged with a 1–4 helical spacing and oriented so that intra-helical charge pairs agree with the helix dipole. Collectively, these results imply that intra-helical salt bridges are more prevalent in thermophiles than mesophiles and thus suggest that they are an important factor stabilizing thermophilic proteins. We also found that the proteins in thermophiles appear to be somewhat shorter than those in mesophiles. However, this later observation may have more to do with evolutionary relationships than with physically stabilizing factors. In all our statistics we were careful to controls for various biases. These could have, for instance, arisen due to repetitive or duplicated sequences. In particular, we repeated our calculation using a variety of random and directed sampling schemes. One of these involved making a "stratified sample," a representative cross-section of the genomes derived from a set of 52 orthologous proteins present roughly once in each genome. For another sample, we focused on the subset of the 52 orthologs that had a known 3D structure. This allowed us to determine the frequency of tertiary as well as main-chain salt bridges. Our statistical controls supported our overall conclusion about the prevalence of salt bridges in thermophiles in comparison to mesophiles.

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Das, R., Gerstein, M. The stability of thermophilic proteins: a study based on comprehensive genome comparison. Funct Integr Genomics 1, 76–88 (2000).

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