Kinetic Dissection of the Pre-existing Conformational Equilibrium in the Trypsin Fold [Protein Structure and Folding]

July 27th, 2015 by Vogt, A. D., Chakraborty, P., Di Cera, E.

Structural biology has recently documented the conformational plasticity of the trypsin fold for both the protease and zymogen in terms of a pre-existing equilibrium between closed (E*) and open (E) forms of the active site region. How such plasticity is manifested in solution and affects ligand recognition by the protease and zymogen is poorly understood in quantitative terms. Here we dissect the E*-E equilibrium with stopped-flow kinetics in the presence of excess ligand or macromolecule. Using the clotting protease thrombin and its zymogen precursor prethrombin-2 as relevant models we resolve the relative distribution of the E* and E forms and the underlying kinetic rates for their interconversion. In the case of thrombin, the E* and E forms are distributed in a 1:4 ratio and interconvert on a time scale of 45 ms. In the case of prethrombin-2, the equilibrium is shifted strongly (10:1 ratio) in favor of the closed E* form and unfolds over a faster time scale of 4.5 ms. The distribution of E* and E forms observed for thrombin and prethrombin-2 indicates that zymogen activation is linked to a significant shift in the pre-existing equilibrium between closed and open conformations that facilitates ligand binding to the active site. These findings broaden our mechanistic understanding of how conformational transitions control ligand recognition by thrombin and its zymogen precursor prethrombin-2 and have direct relevance to other members of the trypsin fold.