Tampere University of Technology

TUTCRIS Research Portal

How conformational flexibility stabilizes the hyperthermophilic elongation factor G-domain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13775-13785
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Part B
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2013
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Proteins from thermophilic organisms are stable and functional well above ambient temperature. Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying such a resistance is of crucial interest for many technological applications. For some time, thermal stability has been assumed to correlate with high mechanical rigidity of the protein matrix. In this work we address this common belief by carefully studying a pair of homologous G-domain proteins, with their melting temperatures differing by 40 K. To probe the thermal-stability content of the two proteins we use extensive simulations covering the microsecond time range and employ several different indicators to assess the salient features of the conformational landscape and the role of internal fluctuations at ambient condition. At the atomistic level, while the magnitude of fluctuations is comparable, the distribution of flexible and rigid stretches of amino-acids is more regular in the thermophilic protein causing a cage-like correlation of amplitudes along the sequence. This caging effect is suggested to favor stability at high T by confining the mechanical excitations. Moreover, it is found that the thermophilic protein, when folded, visits a higher number of conformational substates than the mesophilic homologue. The entropy associated with the occupation of the different substates and the thermal resilience of the protein intrinsic compressibility provide a qualitative insight on the thermal stability of the thermophilic protein as compared to its mesophilic homologue. Our findings potentially open the route to new strategies in the design of thermostable proteins.