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Keywords:

  • intrinsically disordered proteins;
  • protein meta-structure;
  • pH dependence;
  • structural biology;
  • biomolecular NMR;
  • EPR spectroscopy

Abstract

Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are characterized by substantial conformational plasticity and undergo rearrangements of the time-averaged conformational ensemble on changes of environmental conditions (e.g., in ionic strength, pH, molecular crowding). In contrast to stably folded proteins, IDPs often form compact conformations at acidic pH. The biological relevance of this process was, for example, demonstrated by nuclear magnetic resonance studies of the aggregation prone (low pH) state of α-synuclein. In this study, we report a large-scale analysis of the pH dependence of disordered proteins using the recently developed meta-structure approach. The meta-structure analysis of a large set of IDPs revealed a significant tendency of IDPs to form α-helical secondary structure elements and to preferentially fold into more compact structures under acidic conditions. The predictive validity of this novel approach was demonstrated with applications to the tumor-suppressor BASP1 and the transcription factor Tcf4.