Precision design of single and multi-heme de novo proteins

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The de novo design of simplified porphyrin-binding helical bundles is a versatile approach for the construction of valuable biomolecular tools to both understand and enhance protein functions such as electron transfer, oxygen binding and catalysis. However, the methods utilised to design such proteins by packing hydrophobic side chains into a buried binding pocket for ligands such as heme have typically created highly flexible, molten globule-like structures, which are not amenable to structural determination, hindering precise engineering of subsequent designs. Here we report the crystal structure of a de novo two-heme binding “maquette” protein, 4D2, derived from the previously designed D2 peptide, offering new opportunities for computational design and re-engineering. The 4D2 structure was used as a basis to create a range of heme binding proteins which retain the architecture and stability of the initial crystal structure. A well structured single-heme binding variant was constructed by computational sequence redesign of the hydrophobic protein core, assessed by NMR, and utilised for experimental validation of computational redox prediction and design. The structure was also extended into a four-heme binding helical bundle resembling a molecular wire. Despite a molecular weight of only 24kDa, imaging by CryoEM illustrated a remarkable level of detail in this structure, indicating the positioning of both the secondary structure and the heme cofactors. The design and
determination of atomic-level resolution in such de novo proteins is an invaluable resource for the continued development of novel and functional protein tools.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 24 Sept 2020


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