Coupled Folding-Binding in a Hydrophobic/Polar Protein Model: Impact of Synergistic Folding and Disordered Flanks


AbstractCoupled folding-binding is central to the function of many intrinsically disordered proteins, yet not fully understood. With a continuous three-letter protein model, we explore the free-energy landscape of pairs of interacting sequences and how it is impacted by 1), variations in the binding mechanism; and 2), the addition of disordered flanks to the binding region. In particular, we focus on two sequences, one with 16 and one with 35 amino acids, which make a stable dimeric three-helix bundle at low temperatures. Three distinct binding mechanisms are realized by altering the stabilities of the individual monomers: docking, coupled folding-binding of a single α-helix, and synergistic folding and binding. Compared to docking, the free-energy barrier for binding is reduced when the single α-helix is allowed to fold upon binding, but only marginally. A greater reduction is found for synergistic folding, which in addition results in a binding transition state characterized by very few interchain contacts. Disordered flanking chain segments attached to the α-helix sequence can, despite a negligible impact on the dimer stability, lead to a downhill free-energy surface in which the barrier for binding is eliminated

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