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Role of the C-terminal extensions of alpha-crystallins. Swapping the C-terminal extension of alpha-crystallin to alphaB-crystallin results in enhanced chaperone activity.

Pasta S.Y., Raman B., Ramakrishna T., Rao C.h.M.

Several small heat shock proteins contain a well conserved alpha-crystallin domain, flanked by an N-terminal domain and a C-terminal extension, both of which vary in length and sequence. The structural and functional role of the C-terminal extension of small heat shock proteins, particularly of alphaA- and alphaB-crystallins, is not well understood. We have swapped the C-terminal extensions between alphaA- and alphaB-crystallins and generated two novel chimeric proteins, alphaABc and alphaBAc. We have investigated the domain-swapped chimeras for structural and functional alterations. We have used thermal and non-thermal models of protein aggregation and found that the chimeric alphaB with the C-terminal extension of alphaA-crystallin, alphaBAc, exhibits dramatically enhanced chaperone-like activity. Interestingly, however, the chimeric alphaA with the C-terminal extension of alphaB-crystallin, alphaABc, has almost lost its activity. Pyrene solubilization and bis-1-anilino-8-naphthalenesulfonate binding studies show that alphaBAc exhibits more solvent-exposed hydrophobic pockets than alphaA, alphaB, or alphaABc. Significant tertiary structural changes are revealed by tryptophan fluorescence and near-UV CD studies upon swapping the C-terminal extensions. The far-UV CD spectrum of alphaBAc differs from that of alphaB-crystallin whereas that of alphaABc overlaps with that of alphaA-crystallin. Gel filtration chromatography shows alteration in the size of the proteins upon swapping the C-terminal extensions. Our study demonstrates that the unstructured C-terminal extensions play a crucial role in the structure and chaperone activity, in addition to generally believed electrostatic "solubilizer" function.

J. Biol. Chem. 277:45821-45828(2002) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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