Studying protein fold evolution with hybrids of differently folded homologs

Karen V. Eaton, William J. Anderson, Matthew S. Dubrava, Vlad K. Kumirov, Emily M. Dykstra, Matthew H.J. Cordes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


To study the sequence determinants governing protein fold evolution, we generated hybrid sequences from two homologous proteins with 40% identity but different folds: Pfl 6 Cro, which has a mixed α + β structure, and Xfaso 1 Cro, which has an all α-helical structure. First, we first examined eight chimeric hybrids in which the more structurally conserved N-terminal half of one protein was fused to the more structurally divergent C-terminal half of the other. None of these chimeras folded, as judged by circular dichroism spectra and thermal melts, suggesting that both halves have strong intrinsic preferences for the native global fold pattern, and/or that the interfaces between the halves are not readily interchangeable. Second, we examined 10 hybrids in which blocks of the structurally divergent C-terminal region were exchanged. These hybrids showed varying levels of thermal stability and suggested that the key residues in the Xfaso 1 C terminus specifying the all-α fold were concentrated near the end of helix 4 in Xfaso 1, which aligns to the end of strand 2 in Pfl 6. Finally, we generated hybrid substitutions for each individual residue in this critical region and measured thermal stabilities. The results suggested that R47 and V48 were the strongest factors that excluded formation of the α + β fold in the C-terminal region of Xfaso 1. In support of this idea, we found that the folding stability of one of the original eight chimeras could be rescued by back-substituting these two residues. Overall, the results show not only that the key factors for Cro fold specificity and evolution are global and multifarious, but also that some all-α Cro proteins have a C-terminal subdomain sequence within a few substitutions of switching to the α + β fold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalProtein Engineering, Design and Selection
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2015


  • Chimera
  • Folding specificity
  • Hybrid sequence
  • Structural evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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