Dimer formation by a “monomeric” protein

Authors

  • Chiwook Park,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706
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  • Ronald T. Raines

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706
    2. Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706
    • Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 433 Babcock Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1544
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Abstract

Dimeric proteins can arise by the swapping of structural domains between monomers. The prevalence of this occurrence is unknown. Ribonuclease A (RNase A) is assumed to be a monomer near physiological conditions. Here, this hypothesis is tested and found to be imprecise. The two histidine residues (His12 and His119) in the active site of RNase A arise from two domains (S-peptide and S-protein) of the protein. The H12A and H119A variants have 105-fold less ribonucleolytic activity than does the wild-type enzyme. Incubating a 1:1 mixture of the H12A and H119A variants at pH 6.5 and 65°C results in a 103-fold increase in ribonucleolytic activity. A large quantity of active dimer can be produced by lyophilizing a 1:1 mixture of the H12A and H119A variants from acetic acid. At pH 6.5 and 65°C, the ribonucleolytic activity of this dimer converges to that of the dimer formed by simply incubating the monomers, as expected for a monomer–dimer equilibrium. The equilibrium dissociation constant for the dimer is near 2 mM at both 65 and 37°C. This value of Kd is only 20-fold greater than the concentration of RNase A in the cow pancreas, suggesting that RNase A dimers exist in vivo. The intrinsic ability of RNase A to form dimers under physiological conditions is consistent with a detailed model for the evolution of homodimeric proteins. Dimers of “monomeric” proteins could be more prevalent than is usually appreciated.

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