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Computational Protein Stabilization Can Affect Folding Energy Landscapes and Lead to Domain-Swapped Dimers

submitted on 23.01.2021, 19:43 and posted on 27.01.2021, 05:34 by Klara Markova, Antonin Kunka, Klaudia Chmelova, Martin Havlasek, Petra Babkova, Sérgio M. Marques, Michal Vasina, Joan Planas-Iglesias, Radka Chaloupková, David Bednar, Zbynek Prokop, Jiri Damborsky, Martin Marek

The functionality of a protein depends on its unique three-dimensional structure, which is a result of the folding process when the nascent polypeptide follows a funnel-like energy landscape to reach a global energy minimum. Computer-encoded algorithms are increasingly employed to stabilize native proteins for use in research and biotechnology applications. Here, we reveal a unique example where the computational stabilization of a monomeric α/β-hydrolase enzyme (Tm = 73.5°C; ΔTm > 23°C) affected the protein folding energy landscape. Introduction of eleven single-point stabilizing mutations based on force field calculations and evolutionary analysis yielded catalytically active domain-swapped intermediates trapped in local energy minima. Crystallographic structures revealed that these stabilizing mutations target cryptic hinge regions and newly introduced secondary interfaces, where they make extensive non-covalent interactions between the intertwined misfolded protomers. The existence of domain-swapped dimers in a solution is further confirmed experimentally by data obtained from SAXS and crosslinking mass spectrometry. Unfolding experiments showed that the domain-swapped dimers can be irreversibly converted into native-like monomers, suggesting that the domain-swapping occurs exclusively in vivo. Our findings uncovered hidden protein-folding consequences of computational protein design, which need to be taken into account when applying a rational stabilization to proteins of biological and pharmaceutical interest.


Email Address of Submitting Author


Masaryk University


Czech Republic

ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.