Design and characterization of structured protein linkers with differing flexibilities.
ABSTRACT: Engineered fusion proteins containing two or more functional polypeptides joined by a peptide or protein linker are important for many fields of biological research. The separation distance between functional units can impact epitope access and the ability to bind with avidity; thus the availability of a variety of linkers with different lengths and degrees of rigidity would be valuable for protein design efforts. Here, we report a series of designed structured protein linkers incorporating naturally occurring protein domains and compare their properties to commonly used Gly4Ser repeat linkers. When incorporated into the hinge region of an immunoglobulin G (IgG) molecule, flexible Gly4Ser repeats did not result in detectable extensions of the IgG antigen-binding domains, in contrast to linkers including more rigid domains such as ?2-microglobulin, Zn-?2-glycoprotein and tetratricopeptide repeats. This study adds an additional set of linkers with varying lengths and rigidities to the available linker repertoire, which may be useful for the construction of antibodies with enhanced binding properties or other fusion proteins.
Project description:Cellulase enzymes deconstruct cellulose to glucose, and are often comprised of glycosylated linkers connecting glycoside hydrolases (GHs) to carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs). Although linker modifications can alter cellulase activity, the functional role of linkers beyond domain connectivity remains unknown. Here we investigate cellulase linkers connecting GH Family 6 or 7 catalytic domains to Family 1 or 2 CBMs, from both bacterial and eukaryotic cellulases to identify conserved characteristics potentially related to function. Sequence analysis suggests that the linker lengths between structured domains are optimized based on the GH domain and CBM type, such that linker length may be important for activity. Longer linkers are observed in eukaryotic GH Family 6 cellulases compared to GH Family 7 cellulases. Bacterial GH Family 6 cellulases are found with structured domains in either N to C terminal order, and similar linker lengths suggest there is no effect of domain order on length. O-glycosylation is uniformly distributed across linkers, suggesting that glycans are required along entire linker lengths for proteolysis protection and, as suggested by simulation, for extension. Sequence comparisons show that proline content for bacterial linkers is more than double that observed in eukaryotic linkers, but with fewer putative O-glycan sites, suggesting alternative methods for extension. Conversely, near linker termini where linkers connect to structured domains, O-glycosylation sites are observed less frequently, whereas glycines are more prevalent, suggesting the need for flexibility to achieve proper domain orientations. Putative N-glycosylation sites are quite rare in cellulase linkers, while an N-P motif, which strongly disfavors the attachment of N-glycans, is commonly observed. These results suggest that linkers exhibit features that are likely tailored for optimal function, despite possessing low sequence identity. This study suggests that cellulase linkers may exhibit function in enzyme action, and highlights the need for additional studies to elucidate cellulase linker functions.
Project description:The lengths of orthologous protein families in Eukarya are almost double the lengths found in Bacteria and Archaea. Here we examine protein structures in 745 genomes and show that protein length differences between superkingdoms arise as much shorter prokaryotic nondomain linker sequences. Eukaryotic, bacterial, and archaeal linkers are 250, 86, and 73 aa residues in length, respectively, whereas folded domain sequences are 281, 280, and 256 residues, respectively. Cryptic domains match linkers (P < 0.0001) with probabilities ranging between 0.022 and 0.042; accordingly, they do not affect length estimates significantly. Linker sequences support intermolecular binding within proteomes and they are probably enriched in intrinsically disordered regions as well. Reductively evolved linker sequence lengths in growth rate maximized cells should be proportional to proteome diversity. By using total in-frame coding capacity of a genome [i.e., coding sequence (CDS)] as a reliable measure of proteome diversity, we find linker lengths of prokaryotes clearly evolve in proportion to CDS values, whereas those of eukaryotes are more randomly larger than expected. Domain lengths scarcely change over the entire range of CDS values. Thus, the protein linkers of prokaryotes evolve reductively whereas those of eukaryotes do not.
Project description:Flexible polypeptide linkers composed of glycine and serine are important components of engineered multidomain proteins. We have previously shown that the conformational properties of Gly-Gly-Ser repeat linkers can be quantitatively understood by comparing experimentally determined Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) efficiencies of ECFP-linker-EYFP proteins to theoretical FRET efficiencies calculated using wormlike chain and Gaussian chain models. Here we extend this analysis to include linkers with different glycine contents. We determined the FRET efficiencies of ECFP-linker-EYFP proteins with linkers ranging in length from 25 to 73 amino acids and with glycine contents of 33.3% (GSSGSS), 16.7% (GSSSSSS), and 0% (SSSSSSS). The FRET efficiency decreased with an increasing linker length and was overall lower for linkers with less glycine. Modeling the linkers using the WLC model revealed that the experimentally observed FRET efficiencies were consistent with persistence lengths of 4.5, 4.8, and 6.2 Å for the GSSGSS, GSSSSS, and SSSSSS linkers, respectively. The observed increase in linker stiffness with reduced glycine content is much less pronounced than that predicted by a classical model developed by Flory and co-workers. We discuss possible reasons for this discrepancy as well as implications for using the stiffer linkers to control the effective concentrations of connected domains in engineered multidomain proteins.
Project description:Recent years have witnessed increasing efforts to engineer artificial biological functions through recombination of modular-organized toolboxes of protein scaffolds and parts. A critical, yet frequently neglected aspect concerns the identity of peptide linkers or spacers connecting individual domains which remain poorly understood and challenging to assemble. Addressing these limitations, iFlinkC comprises a highly scalable DNA assembly process that facilitates the combinatorial recombination of functional domains with linkers of varying length and flexibility, thereby overcoming challenges with high GC-content and the repeat nature of linker elements. The capacity of iFLinkC is demonstrated in the construction of synthetic protease switches featuring PDZ-FN3-based affinity clamps and single-chain FKBP12-FRB receptors as allosteric inputs. Library screening experiments demonstrate that linker space is highly plastic as the induction of allosterically regulated protease switches can vary from >150-fold switch-ON to >13-fold switch-OFF solely depending on the identity of the connecting linkers and relative orientation of functional domains. In addition, Pro-rich linkers yield the most potent switches contradicting the conventional use of flexible Gly-Ser linkers. Given the ease and efficiency how functional domains can be readily recombined with any type of linker, iFLinkC is anticipated to be widely applicable to the assembly of any type of fusion protein.
Project description:Supramolecular protein assemblies have garnered considerable interest due to their potential in diverse fields with unrivaled attainable functionalities and structural accuracy. Despite significant advances in protein assembly strategies, inserting long linkers with varied lengths and rigidity between assembling protein building blocks remains extremely difficult. Here we report a series of green fluorescent protein (GFP) oligomers, where protein building blocks were linked via two independent peptide strands. Assembling protein units for this two-peptide assembly were designed by flopped fusion of three self-assembling GFP fragments with two peptide linkers. Diverse flexible and rigid peptide linkers were successfully inserted into high-valent GFP oligomers. In addition, oligomers with one flexible linker and one rigid linker could also be fabricated, allowing more versatile linker rigidity control. Linker length could be varied from 10 amino acids (aa) even up to 76 aa, which is the longest among reported protein assembling peptide linkers. Discrete GFP oligomers containing diverse linkers with valencies between monomers to decamers were monodispersely purified by gel elution. Furthermore, various functional proteins could be multivalently fused to the present GFP oligomers. Binding assays, size exclusion chromatography, dynamic light scattering, circular dichroism, differential scanning calorimetry, and transmission electron microscopy suggested circular geometries of the GFP oligomers and showed distinct characteristics of GFP oligomers with length/rigidity varied linkers. Lastly, a surface binding study indicated that more spaced oligomeric binding modules offered more effective multivalent interactions than less spaced modules.
Project description:The many variants of human Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) differ in the lengths and sequences of disordered linkers connecting the kinase domains to the oligomeric hubs of the holoenzyme. CaMKII activity depends on the balance between activating and inhibitory autophosphorylation (on Thr 286 and Thr 305/306, respectively, in the human ? isoform). Variation in the linkers could alter transphosphorylation rates within a holoenzyme and the balance of autophosphorylation outcomes. We show, using mammalian cell expression and a single-molecule assay, that the balance of autophosphorylation is flipped between CaMKII variants with longer and shorter linkers. For the principal isoforms in the brain, CaMKII-?, with a ~30 residue linker, readily acquires activating autophosphorylation, while CaMKII-?, with a ~200 residue linker, is biased towards inhibitory autophosphorylation. Our results show how the responsiveness of CaMKII holoenzymes to calcium signals can be tuned by varying the relative levels of isoforms with long and short linkers.
Project description:Background and purpose:An anticancer peptide P28, has shown to be cytolethal on various cancer cells including breast cancer. Moreover, p28 can be also used as a targeting moiety in the structure of fusion proteins. IL-24 (or its truncated form, M4) is a cytokine with anticancer activity against a wide range of tumor cells. We aimed at production of a fusion protein consisted of p28 and either IL-24 or M4 to target breast cancer. However, selection of a proper linker to join the two moieties without intervening each other's function is a key factor in the construction of fusion proteins. In the present study, the impact of different linkers on construction of the two chimeric proteins (p28-IL-24 and p28-M4) was assessed in silico. Experimental approach:After selection of some linkers with different lengths and characteristics, a small library of the chimeric proteins was created and assessed. Furthermore, following selection of the most suitable linker, the three-dimensional structures and dynamic behavior of both fusion proteins were evaluated by homology modeling and molecular dynamic simulation, respectively. Findings / Results:Based on the results, a rigid linker having the peptide sequences of AEAAAKEAAAKA showed highest freedom of action for both moieties. Conclusion and implications:Between the p28-IL-24 and p28-M4 fusion proteins, the former showed better stability as well as solubility and might show stronger anticancer effects in vitro and in vivo, because its peptide moieties showed to exert their activities freely.
Project description:Tip link filaments convey force and gate inner-ear hair-cell transduction channels to mediate perception of sound and head movements. Cadherin-23 and protocadherin-15 form tip links through a calcium-dependent interaction of their extracellular domains made of multiple extracellular cadherin (EC) repeats. These repeats are structurally similar, but not identical in sequence, often featuring linkers with conserved calcium-binding sites that confer mechanical strength to them. Here we present the X-ray crystal structures of human protocadherin-15 EC8-EC10 and mouse EC9-EC10, which show an EC8-9 canonical-like calcium-binding linker, and an EC9-10 calcium-free linker that alters the linear arrangement of EC repeats. Molecular dynamics simulations and small-angle X-ray scattering experiments support this non-linear conformation. Simulations also suggest that unbending of EC9-10 confers some elasticity to otherwise rigid tip links. The new structure provides a first view of protocadherin-15's non-canonical EC linkers and suggests how they may function in inner-ear mechanotransduction, with implications for other cadherins.
Project description:The predictable engineering of well-behaved transcriptional circuits is a central goal of synthetic biology. The artificial attachment of promoters to transcription factor genes usually results in noisy or chaotic behaviors, and such systems are unlikely to be useful in practical applications. Natural transcriptional regulation relies extensively on protein-protein interactions to insure tightly controlled behavior, but such tight control has been elusive in engineered systems. To help engineer protein-protein interactions, we have developed a molecular dynamics simulation framework that simplifies features of proteins moving by constrained Brownian motion, with the goal of performing long simulations. The behavior of a simulated protein system is determined by summation of forces that include a Brownian force, a drag force, excluded volume constraints, relative position constraints, and binding constraints that relate to experimentally determined on-rates and off-rates for chosen protein elements in a system. Proteins are abstracted as spheres. Binding surfaces are defined radially within a protein. Peptide linkers are abstracted as small protein-like spheres with rigid connections. To address whether our framework could generate useful predictions, we simulated the behavior of an engineered fusion protein consisting of two 20,000 Da proteins attached by flexible glycine/serine-type linkers. The two protein elements remained closely associated, as if constrained by a random walk in three dimensions of the peptide linker, as opposed to showing a distribution of distances expected if movement were dominated by Brownian motion of the protein domains only. We also simulated the behavior of fluorescent proteins tethered by a linker of varying length, compared the predicted Förster resonance energy transfer with previous experimental observations, and obtained a good correspondence. Finally, we simulated the binding behavior of a fusion of two ligands that could simultaneously bind to distinct cell-surface receptors, and explored the landscape of linker lengths and stiffnesses that could enhance receptor binding of one ligand when the other ligand has already bound to its receptor, thus, addressing potential mechanisms for improving targeted signal transduction proteins. These specific results have implications for the design of targeted fusion proteins and artificial transcription factors involving fusion of natural domains. More broadly, the simulation framework described here could be extended to include more detailed system features such as non-spherical protein shapes and electrostatics, without requiring detailed, computationally expensive specifications. This framework should be useful in predicting behavior of engineered protein systems including binding and dissociation reactions.
Project description:The assembly of four soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor domains into a complex is essential for membrane fusion. In most cases, the four SNARE-domains are encoded by separate membrane-targeted proteins. However, in the exocytotic pathway, two SNARE-domains are present in one protein, connected by a flexible linker. The significance of this arrangement is unknown. We characterized the role of the linker in SNAP-25, a neuronal SNARE, by using overexpression techniques in synaptosomal-associated protein of 25 kDa (SNAP-25) null mouse chromaffin cells and fast electrophysiological techniques. We confirm that the palmitoylated linker-cysteines are important for membrane association. A SNAP-25 mutant without cysteines supported exocytosis, but the fusion rate was slowed down and the fusion pore duration prolonged. Using chimeric proteins between SNAP-25 and its ubiquitous homologue SNAP-23, we show that the cysteine-containing part of the linkers is interchangeable. However, a stretch of 10 hydrophobic and charged amino acids in the C-terminal half of the SNAP-25 linker is required for fast exocytosis and in its absence the calcium dependence of exocytosis is shifted toward higher concentrations. The SNAP-25 linker therefore might have evolved as an adaptation toward calcium triggering and a high rate of execution of the fusion process, those features that distinguish exocytosis from other membrane fusion pathways.