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Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Tom McLeish

Toncrova, Hedvika & McLeish, Tom C.B. (2010). Substrate-Modulated Thermal Fluctuations Affect Long-Range Allosteric Signaling in Protein Homodimers: Exemplified in CAP. Biophysical journal 98(10): 2317-2326.

Author(s) from Durham


The role of conformational dynamics in allosteric signaling of proteins is increasingly recognized as an important and subtle aspect of this ubiquitous phenomenon. Cooperative binding is commonly observed in proteins with twofold symmetry that bind two identical ligands. We construct a coarse-grained model of an allosteric coupled dimer and show how the signal can be propagated between the distant binding sites via change in slow global vibrational modes alone. We demonstrate that modulation on substrate binding of as few as 5–10 slow modes can give rise to cooperativity observed in biological systems and that the type of cooperativity is given by change of interaction between the two monomers upon ligand binding. To illustrate the application of the model, we apply it to a challenging test case: the catabolite activator protein (CAP). CAP displays negative cooperativity upon association with two identical ligands. The conformation of CAP is not affected by the binding, but its vibrational spectrum undergoes a strong modification. Intriguingly, the first binding enhances thermal fluctuations, yet the second quenches them. We show that this counterintuitive behavior is, in fact, necessary for an optimal anticooperative system, and captured within a well-defined region of the model's parameter space. From analyzing the experimental results, we conclude that fast local modes take an active part in the allostery of CAP, coupled to the more-global slow modes. By including them into the model, we elucidate the role of the modes on different timescales. We conclude that such dynamic control of allostery in homodimers may be a general phenomenon and that our model framework can be used for extended interpretation of thermodynamic parameters in other systems.