NMR-monitored titration of acid-stress bacterial chaperone HdeA reveals that Asp and Glu charge neutralization produces a loosened dimer structure in preparation for protein unfolding and chaperone activation

Authors

  • McKinzie A. Garrison,

    1. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California
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  • Karin A. Crowhurst

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California
    • Correspondence to: Karin Crowhurst, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, California State University Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA, 91330-8262. E-mail: karin.crowhurst@csun.edu

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Abstract

HdeA is a periplasmic chaperone found in several gram-negative pathogenic bacteria that are linked to millions of cases of dysentery per year worldwide. After the protein becomes activated at low pH, it can bind to other periplasmic proteins, protecting them from aggregation when the bacteria travel through the stomach on their way to colonize the intestines. It has been argued that one of the major driving forces for HdeA activation is the protonation of aspartate and glutamate side chains. The goal for this study, therefore, was to investigate, at the atomic level, the structural impact of this charge neutralization on HdeA during the transition from near-neutral conditions to pH 3.0, in preparation for unfolding and activation of its chaperone capabilities. NMR spectroscopy was used to measure pKa values of Asp and Glu residues and monitor chemical shift changes. Measurements of R2/R1 ratios from relaxation experiments confirm that the protein maintains its dimer structure between pH 6.0 and 3.0. However, calculated correlation times and changes in amide protection from hydrogen/deuterium exchange experiments provide evidence for a loosening of the tertiary and quaternary structures of HdeA; in particular, the data indicate that the dimer structure becomes progressively weakened as the pH decreases. Taken together, these results provide insight into the process by which HdeA is primed to unfold and carry out its chaperone duties below pH 3.0, and it also demonstrates that neutralization of aspartate and glutamate residues is not likely to be the sole trigger for HdeA dissociation and unfolding.

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