Drastic alterations in the loop structure around colchicine upon complex formation with an engineered lipocalin indicate a conformational selection mechanism

Elena Jerschke, Andreas Eichinger, Arne Skerra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Using Anticalin technology, a lipocalin protein dubbed Colchicalin, with the ability to bind the toxic plant alkaloid colchicine with picomolar affinity, has previously been engineered, thus offering a potential antidote in vivo and also allowing its sensitive detection in biological samples. To further analyze the mode of ligand recognition, the crystal structure of Colchicalin is now reported in its unliganded form and is compared with the colchicine complex. A superposition of the protein structures revealed major rearrangements in the four structurally variable loops of the engineered lipocalin. Notably, the binding pocket in the unbound protein is largely occupied by the inward-bent loop #3, in particular Ile97, as well as by the phenylalanine side chain at position 71 in loop #2. Upon binding of colchicine, a dramatic shift of loop #3 by up to 11.1 Å occurs, in combination with a side-chain flip of Phe71, thus liberating the necessary space within the ligand pocket. Interestingly, the proline residue at the neighboring position 72, which arose during the combinatorial engineering of Colchicalin, remained in a cis configuration in both structures. These findings provide a striking example of a conformational adaptation mechanism, which is a long-known phenomenon for antibodies in immunochemistry, during the recognition of a small ligand by an engineered lipocalin, thus illustrating the general similarity between the mode of antigen/ligand binding by immunoglobulins and lipocalins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalActa Crystallographica Section F: Structural Biology Communications
Volume79
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Anticalins
  • hapten recognition
  • induced fit
  • protein design

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