Skip to main content

Cryoelectron microscopy and EPR analysis of engineered symmetric and polydisperse Hsp16.5 assemblies reveals determinants of polydispersity and substrate binding.


Shi JJian , Koteiche HA Hanane A , McHaourab HS Hassane S , Stewart PL Phoebe L . The Journal of biological chemistry. 2006 12 29; 281(52). 40420-8


We have identified sequence and structural determinants of oligomer size, symmetry, and polydispersity in the small heat shock protein super family. Using an insertion mutagenesis strategy that mimics evolutionary sequence divergence, we induced the ordered oligomer of Methanococcus jannaschii Hsp16.5 to transition to either expanded symmetric or polydisperse assemblies. A hybrid approach combining spin labeling EPR and cryoelectron microscopy imaging at 10A resolution reveals that the underlying plasticity is mediated by a packing interface with minimal contacts and a flexible C-terminal tether between dimers. Twenty-four dimeric building blocks related by octahedral symmetry assemble into the expanded symmetric oligomer. In contrast, the polydisperse variant has an ordered dimeric building block that heterogeneously packs to yield oligomers of various sizes. Increased exposure of the N-terminal region in the Hsp16.5 variants correlates with enhanced binding to destabilized mutants of T4 lysozyme, whereas deletion of this region reduces binding. Transition to larger intermediates with enhanced substrate binding capacity has been observed in other small heat shock proteins including lens alpha-crystallin mutants linked to congenital cataract. Together, these results provide a mechanistic perspective on substrate recognition and binding by the small heat shock protein superfamily.