5 years ago

The nucleotide-free state of heterotrimeric G proteins α-subunit adopts a highly stable conformation

The nucleotide-free state of heterotrimeric G proteins α-subunit adopts a highly stable conformation
Gopala Krishna Aradhyam, Sai Krishna Andhirka, Ravichandran Vignesh
Deciphering the mechanism of activation of heterotrimeric G proteins by their cognate receptors continues to be an intriguing area of research. The recently solved crystal structure of the ternary complex captured the receptor-bound α-subunit in an open conformation, without bound nucleotide has improved our understanding of the activation process. Despite these advancements, the mechanism by which the receptor causes GDP release from the α-subunit remains elusive. To elucidate the mechanism of activation, we studied guanine nucleotide-induced structural stability of the α-subunit (in response to thermal/chaotrope-mediated stress). Inherent stabilities of the inactive (GDP-bound) and active (GTP-bound) forms contribute antagonistically to the difference in conformational stability whereas the GDP-bound protein is able to switch to a stable intermediate state, GTP-bound protein loses this ability. Partial perturbation of the protein fold reveals the underlying influence of the bound nucleotide providing an insight into the mechanism of activation. An extra stable, pretransition intermediate, ‘empty pocket’ state (conformationally active-state like) in the unfolding pathway of GDP-bound protein mimics a gating system – the activation process having to overcome this stable intermediate state. We demonstrate that a relatively more complex conformational fold of the GDP-bound protein is at the core of the gating system. We report capturing this threshold, ‘metastable empty pocket’ conformation (the gate) of α-subunit of G protein and hypothesize that the receptor activates the G protein by enabling it to achieve this structure through mild structural perturbation. Heterotrimeric G protein alpha subunits are activated by their cognate receptors to achieve a nucleotide-free (empty pocket) intermediate state. We have entrapped the empty pocket state by mildly perturbing the conformation of the GDP-bound protein using a chaotrope (0.7 m guanidinium chloride). This intermediate state is structurally compact and as stable as the active state (GTP-bound) conformation.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/febs.14143

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