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Carboxyl pK(a) values, ion pairs, hydrogen bonding, and the pH-dependence of folding the hyperthermophile proteins Sac7d and Sso7d

Andrew T Clark, Kelley Smith, Ranjith Muhandiram, Stephen P Edmondson, John W Shriver
Journal of Molecular Biology 2007 September 28, 372 (4): 992-1008
17692336
Sac7d and Sso7d are homologous, hyperthermophile proteins with a high density of charged surface residues and potential ion pairs. To determine the relative importance of specific amino acid side-chains in defining the stability and function of these Archaeal chromatin proteins, pK(a) values were measured for the acidic residues in both proteins using (13)C NMR chemical shifts. The stability of Sso7d enabled titrations to pH 1 under low-salt conditions. Two aspartate residues in Sso7d (D16 and D35) and a single glutamate residue (G54) showed significantly perturbed pK(a) values in low salt, indicating that the observed pH-dependence of stability was primarily due to these three residues. The pH-dependence of backbone amide NMR resonances demonstrated that perturbation of all three pK(a) values was primarily the result of side-chain to backbone amide hydrogen bonds. Few of the significantly perturbed acidic pK(a) values in Sac7d and Sso7d could be attributed to primarily ion pair or electrostatic interactions. A smaller perturbation of E48 (E47 in Sac7d) was ascribed to an ion pair interaction that may be important in defining the DNA binding surface. The small number (three) of significantly altered pK(a) values was in good agreement with a linkage analysis of the temperature, pH, and salt-dependence of folding. The linkage of the ionization of two or more side-chains to protein folding led to apparent cooperativity in the pH-dependence of folding, although each group titrated independently with a Hill coefficient near unity. These results demonstrate that the acid pH-dependence of protein stability in these hyperthermophile proteins is due to independent titration of acidic residues with pK(a) values perturbed primarily by hydrogen bonding of the side-chain to the backbone. This work demonstrates the need for caution in using structural data alone to argue the importance of ion pairs in stabilizing hyperthermophile proteins.

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