A S52P mutation in the ‘α-crystallin domain’ of Mycobacterium leprae HSP18 reduces its oligomeric size and chaperone function

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Abstract

Mycobacterium leprae HSP18 is a small heat shock protein (sHSP). It is a major immunodominant antigen of M. leprae pathogen. Previously, we have reported the existence of two M. leprae HSP18 variants in various leprotic patients. One of the variants has serine at position 52, whereas the other one has proline at the same position. We have also reported that HSP18 having proline at position 52 (HSP18P52) is a nonameric protein and exhibits chaperone function. However, the structural and functional characterization of wild-type HSP18 having serine at position 52 (HSP18S52) is yet to be explored. Furthermore, the implications of the S52P mutation on the structure and chaperone function of HSP18 are not well understood. Therefore, we cloned and purified these two HSP18 variants. We found that HSP18S52 is also a molecular chaperone and an oligomeric protein. Intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence and far-UV CD measurements revealed that the S52P mutation altered the tertiary and secondary structure of HSP18. This point mutation also reduced the oligomeric assembly and decreased the surface hydrophobicity of HSP18, as revealed by HPLC and 4,4′-dianilino-1,1′-binaphthyl-5,5′-disulfonic acid binding studies, respectively. Mutant protein was less stable against thermal and chemical denaturation and was more susceptible towards tryptic cleavage than wild-type HSP18. HSP18P52 had lower chaperone function and was less effective in protecting thermal killing of Escherichia coli than HSP18S52. Taken together, our data suggest that serine 52 is important for the larger oligomerization and chaperone function of HSP18. Because both variants differ in stability and function, they may have different roles in the survival of M. leprae in infected hosts.

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