TitleOn the folding of a structurally complex protein to its metastable active state.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsRao VVHemanth, Gosavi S
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2018 Jan 17

For successful protease inhibition, the reactive center loop (RCL) of the two-domain serine protease inhibitor, α1-antitrypsin (α1-AT), needs to remain exposed in a metastable active conformation. The α1-AT RCL is sequestered in a β-sheet in the stable latent conformation. Thus, to be functional, α1-AT must always fold to a metastable conformation while avoiding folding to a stable conformation. We explore the structural basis of this choice using folding simulations of coarse-grained structure-based models of the two α1-AT conformations. Our simulations capture the key features of folding experiments performed on both conformations. The simulations also show that the free energy barrier to fold to the latent conformation is much larger than the barrier to fold to the active conformation. An entropically stabilized on-pathway intermediate lowers the barrier for folding to the active conformation. In this intermediate, the RCL is in an exposed configuration, and only one of the two α1-AT domains is folded. In contrast, early conversion of the RCL into a β-strand increases the coupling between the two α1-AT domains in the transition state and creates a larger barrier for folding to the latent conformation. Thus, unlike what happens in several proteins, where separate regions promote folding and function, the structure of the RCL, formed early during folding, determines both the conformational and the functional fate of α1-AT. Further, the short 12-residue RCL modulates the free energy barrier and the folding cooperativity of the large 370-residue α1-AT. Finally, we suggest experiments to test the predicted folding mechanism for the latent state.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PubMed ID29343647