Since the discovery of the biological relevance of lanthanides (Lns) for methylotrophic bacteria in the last decade, the field has seen a steady rise in discoveries of bacteria using Lns. The major role of lanthanides here is in the active sites of enzymes: methanol dehydrogenases. Additionally, lanthanide binding proteins have also been identified. One such protein is lanmodulin (LanM) and, with a remarkable selectivity for Lns over Ca(II) and affinities in the picomolar range, it makes an attractive target to address challenges in lanthanide separation. Why LanM has such a high selectivity is currently not entirely understood, both the specific amino acid sequences of the EF-hand loops, together with cooperativity effects have been suggested. Consequently, we decided to remove the effect of cooperativity by focusing on the amino acid level. Thus, we synthesized all four 12-amino acid EF-Hand loop peptides of LanM using solid phase peptide synthesis and investigated their affinity for Lns (Eu(III), Tb(III)), the actinide Cm(III) and Ca(II). Using isothermal titration calorimetry and time resolved laser fluorescence spectroscopy combined with parallel factor analysis, we show that in the absence of cooperativity the short EF-Hand loop peptides have all similar affinities for lanthanides and that these are all in the micromolar range. Furthermore, calcium was shown not to bind to the peptides which was verified with circular dichroism spectroscopy. This technique also revealed that the peptides undergo a change to a more ordered state when lanthanides are added. These experimental observations were further supported by molecular dynamics simulations. Lastly, we put Eu(III) and Cm(III) in direct competition using TRLFS. Remarkably, a slightly higher affinity for the actinide, as was also observed for LanM, was found. Our results demonstrate that the picomolar affinities in LanM are largely an effect of pre-structuring in the full protein and therefore reduction of flexibility in combination with cooperative effects, and that all EF-Hand loops possess similar affinities when detached from the protein backbone, albeit still retaining the high selectivity for lanthanides and actinides over calcium.
Experimental Details and Additional Figures for Peptide Synthesis and Purification, Binding Studies, CD Spectroscopy (CD), Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) , Time-resolved Laser-induced Fluorescence Spectroscopy (TRLFS) and Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations.