Common mechanism of thermostability in small α- and β-proteins studied by molecular dynamics

Kalyanashis Jana, Rukmankesh Mehra, Budheswar Dehury, Tom L. Blundell, Kasper Planeta Kepp*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Protein thermostability is important to evolution, diseases and industrial applications. Proteins use diverse molecular strategies toachieve stability at high temperature, yet reducing the entropy of unfolding seems required. We investigated five small α-proteins and five β-proteins with known, distinct structures and thermostability (Tm ) using multi-seed molecular dynamics simulations at 300, 350, and 400 K. The proteins displayed diverse changes in hydrogen bonding, solvent exposure and secondary structure with no simple relationship to Tm . Our dynamics were in good agreement with experimental B-factors at 300 K and insensitive to force field choice. Despite the very distinct structures, the native-state (300 + 350 K) free energy landscapes were significantly broader for the two most thermostable proteins and smallest for the three least stable proteins in both the α- and β-group and with both force fields studied independently (tailed t-test, 95% confidence level). Our results suggest that entropic ensembles stabilize proteins at high temperature due to reduced entropy of unfolding, viz. ΔG = ΔH - TΔS. Supporting this mechanism, the most thermostable proteins were also the least kinetically stable, consistent with broader free energy landscapes, typified by villin headpiece and confirmed by specific comparison to a mesophilic ortholog of Thermus thermophilus apo-pyrophosphate phosphohydrolase. We propose that molecular strategies of protein thermostabilization, although diverse, tend to converge towards highest possible entropy in the native state consistent with the functional requirements. We speculate that this tendency may explain why many proteins are not optimally structured and why molten globule states resemble native proteins so much. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1233-1250
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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