The ubiquitously occurring chaperonins consist of a large tetradecameric Chaperonin-60, forming a cylindrical assembly, and a smaller heptameric Chaperonin-10. For a functional protein folding cycle, Chaperonin-10 caps the cylindrical Chaperonin-60 from one end forming an asymmetric complex. The oligomeric assembly of Chaperonin-10 is known to be highly plastic in nature. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the plasticity has been shown to be modulated by reversible binding of divalent cations. Binding of cations confers rigidity to the metal binding loop, and also promotes stability of the oligomeric structure. We have probed the conformational effects of cation binding on the Chaperonin-10 structure through fluorescence studies and molecular dynamics simulations. Fluorescence studies show that cation binding induces reduced exposure and flexibility of the dome loop. The simulations corroborate these results and further indicate a complex landscape of correlated motions between different parts of the molecule. They also show a fascinating interplay between two distantly spaced loops, the metal binding "dome loop" and the GroEL-binding "mobile loop", suggesting an important cation-mediated role in the recognition of Chaperonin-60. In the presence of cations the mobile loop appears poised to dock onto the Chaperonin-60 structure. The divalent metal ions may thus act as key elements in the protein folding cycle, and trigger a conformational switch for molecular recognition
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