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The Effect of Positive Charge Distribution on the Cryoprotective Activity of Dehydrins

Dehydrins are intrinsically disordered proteins expressed ubiquitously throughout the plant kingdom in response to desiccation. Dehydrins have been found to have a cryoprotective effect on lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in vitro, which is in large part influenced by their hydrodynamic radius rather than the order of the amino acids within the sequence (alternatively, this may be a sequence specific effect). However, it seems that a different mechanism may underpin the cryoprotection that they confer to the cold-labile yeast frataxin homolog-1 (Yfh1). Circular dichroism spectroscopy (CD) was used to assess the degree of helicity of Yfh1 at 1 °C, both alone and in the presence of several dehydrin constructs. Three constructs were compared to the wild type: YSK2-K→R (lysine residues substituted with arginine), YSK2-Neutral (locally neutralized charge), and YSK2-SpaceK (evenly distributed positive charge). The results show that sequence rearrangements and minor substitutions have little impact on the ability of the dehydrin to preserve LDH activity. However, when the positive charge of the dehydrin is locally neutralized or evenly distributed, the dehydrin becomes less efficient at promoting structure in Yfh1 at low temperatures. This suggests that a stabilizing, charge-based interaction occurs between dehydrins and Yfh1. Dehydrins are intrinsically disordered proteins, expressed by certain organisms to improve desiccation tolerance. These proteins are thought to serve many cellular roles, such as the stabilization of membranes, DNA, and proteins. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the function of dehydrins are not well understood. Here, the authors examine the importance of positive charges in dehydrin sequences by making substitutions and comparing their effects in the cryoprotection of two different proteins.

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