Termini restraining of small membrane proteins enables structure determination at near-atomic resolution

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Science Advances  18 Dec 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 51, eabe3717
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe3717


Small membrane proteins are difficult targets for structural characterization. Here, we stabilize their folding by restraining their amino and carboxyl termini with associable protein entities, exemplified by the two halves of a superfolder GFP. The termini-restrained proteins are functional and show improved stability during overexpression and purification. The reassembled GFP provides a versatile scaffold for membrane protein crystallization, enables diffraction to atomic resolution, and facilitates crystal identification, phase determination, and density modification. This strategy gives rise to 14 new structures of five vertebrate proteins from distinct functional families, bringing a substantial expansion to the structural database of small membrane proteins. Moreover, a high-resolution structure of bacterial DsbB reveals that this thiol oxidoreductase is activated through a catalytic triad, similar to cysteine proteases. Overall, termini restraining proves exceptionally effective for stabilization and structure determination of small membrane proteins.

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