keywords: computational protein design computational enzyme design protein engineering rational protein design artificial enzymes de novo enzyme design de novo protein design probabilistic protein design energy landscape theory


  • concatenation of multiple interaction domains
  • DNA shuffling and homologous recombination using members of the same protein family
  • directed domain interface evolution

Design of protein function leaps by directed domain interface evolution

Most natural proteins performing sophisticated tasks contain multiple domains where an active site is located at the domain interface. Comparative structural analyses suggest that major leaps in protein function occur through gene recombination events that connect two or more protein domains to generate a new active site, frequently occurring at the newly created domain interface. However, such functional leaps by combination of unrelated domains have not been directly demonstrated. Here we show that highly specific and complex protein functions can be generated by joining a low-affinity peptide-binding domain with a functionally inert second domain and subsequently optimizing the domain interface. These directed evolution processes dramatically enhanced both affinity and specificity to a level unattainable with a single domain, corresponding to >500-fold and >2,000-fold increases of affinity and specificity, respectively. An x-ray crystal structure revealed that the resulting affinity clamp had clamshell architecture as designed, with large additional binding surface contributed by the second domain. The affinity clamps having a single-nanomolar dissociation constant outperformed a monoclonal antibody in immunochemical applications. This work establishes evolutionary paths from isolated domains with primitive function to multidomain proteins with sophisticated function and introduces a new protein-engineering concept that allows for the generation of highly functional affinity reagents to a predefined target. The prevalence and variety of natural interaction domains suggest that numerous new functions can be designed by using directed domain interface evolution.

Design, synthesis, and characterization of a photoactivatable flavocytochrome molecular maquette

We report the construction of a synthetic flavo-heme protein that incorporates two major physiological activities of flavoproteins: light activation of flavin analogous to DNA photolyase and rapid intramolecular electron transfer between the flavin and heme cofactors as in several oxidoreductases. The functional tetra-α-helix protein comprises two 62-aa helix-loop-helix subunits. Each subunit contains a single cysteine to which flavin (7-acetyl-10-methylisoalloxazine) is covalently attached and two histidines appropriately positioned for bis-his coordination of heme cofactors. Both flavins and hemes are situated within the hydrophobic core of the protein. Intramolecular electron transfer from flavosemiquinone generated by photoreduction from a sacrificial electron donor in solution was examined between protoporphyrin IX and 1-methyl-2-oxomesoheme XIII. Laser pulse-activated electron transfer from flavin to meso heme occurs on a 100-ns time scale, with a favorable free energy of approximately 100 meV. Electron transfer from flavin to the lower potential protoporphyrin IX, with an unfavorable free energy, can be induced after a lag phase under continuous light illumination. Thus, the supporting peptide matrix provides an excellent framework for the positioning of closely juxtaposed redox groups capable of facilitating intramolecular electron transfer and begins to clarify in a simplified and malleable system the natural engineering of flavoproteins.