Protein Domains - Domains and Protein Flexibility

Domains and Protein Flexibility

The presence of multiple domains in proteins gives rise to a great deal of flexibility and mobility, leading to protein domain dynamics. Domain motions can be inferred by comparing different structures of a protein (as in Database of Molecular Motions), or they can be directly observed using spectra measured by neutron spin echo spectroscopy. They can also be suggested by sampling in extensive molecular dynamics trajectories and principal component analysis. Domain motions are important for:

  • catalysis
  • regulatory activity
  • transport of metabolites
  • formation of protein assemblies
  • cellular locomotion

One of the largest observed domain motions is the `swivelling' mechanism in pyruvate phosphate dikinase. The phosphoinositide domain swivels between two states in order to bring a phosphate group from the active site of the nucleotide binding domain to that of the phosphoenolpyruvate/pyruvate domain. The phosphate group is moved over a distance of 45A involving a domain motion of about 100 degrees around a single residue. In enzymes, the closure of one domain onto another captures a substrate by an induced fit, allowing the reaction to take place in a controlled way. A detailed analysis by Gerstein led to the classification of two basic types of domain motion; hinge and shear. Only a relatively small portion of the chain, namely the inter-domain linker and side chains undergo significant conformational changes upon domain rearrangement.

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