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Polyethylene Glycol Impacts Conformation and Dynamics of Escherichia coli Prolyl-tRNA Synthetase Via Crowding and Confinement Effects.

Biochemistry 2024 April 13
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a flexible, nontoxic polymer commonly used in biological and medical research, and it is generally regarded as biologically inert. PEG molecules of variable sizes are also used as crowding agents to mimic intracellular environments. A recent study with PEG crowders revealed decreased catalytic activity of Escherichia coli prolyl-tRNA synthetase (Ec ProRS), where the smaller molecular weight PEGs had the maximum impact. The molecular mechanism of the crowding effects of PEGs is not clearly understood. PEG may impact protein conformation and dynamics, thus its function. In the present study, the effects of PEG molecules of various molecular weights and concentrations on the conformation and dynamics of Ec ProRS were investigated using a combined experimental and computational approach including intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, and atomistic molecular dynamic simulations. Results of the present study suggest that lower molecular weight PEGs in the dilute regime have modest effects on the conformational dynamics of Ec ProRS but impact the catalytic function primarily via the excluded volume effect; they form large clusters blocking the active site pocket. In contrast, the larger molecular weight PEGs in dilute to semidilute regimes have a significant impact on the protein's conformational dynamics; they wrap on the protein surface through noncovalent interactions. Thus, lower-molecular-weight PEG molecules impact protein dynamics and function via crowding effects, whereas larger PEGs induce confinement effects. These results have implications for the development of inhibitors for protein targets in a crowded cellular environment.

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