Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Chemistry

First Advisor

Jenny J. Yang

Second Advisor

Markus Germann

Third Advisor

Aimin Liu

Fourth Advisor

Robert Wolhueter

Abstract

Essential metals like Ca2+ and Zn2+ play critical roles in biological processes through protein interactions. Conversely, non-essential metals (e.g., Gd3+ and Pb2+) also interact with proteins, often with toxic effects. Molecular metal toxicity is assumed to be due to ionic displacement, and studies have demonstrated that Pb2+ replaces Zn2+, Ca2+ and other essential metals in proteins. The focus of this work was to compare protein Ca2+ and Pb2+ -binding sites and to investigate a mechanism of Pb2+ toxicity in Ca2+-binding proteins, particularly the intracellular trigger protein calmodulin (CaM) which binds four Ca2+ ions and interacts with numerous molecular targets via Ca2+-induced conformational change.

A statistical analysis of PDB structural data for Pb2+ and Ca2+-binding (EF-hand and non-EF-hand) proteins revealed fewer binding ligands in Pb2+ sites (4 ± 2), than non-EF-Hand (6 ± 2) and EF-Hand (7 ± 1) Ca2+-binding sites. Pb2+ binds predominantly with sidechain Glu (38.4%), which is less prevalent in both non-EF-Hand (10.4%) and EF-Hand (26.6%) sites. Interestingly, analyses of proteins where Pb2+ replaces Ca2+ (calmodulin) or Zn2+ (5-aminolaevulinic acid dehydratase) revealed structural changes presumably unrelated to ionic displacement. These results suggested that Pb2+ adopts diverse binding geometries and that opportunistic binding outside of known Ca2+-binding sites may play a role in molecular metal toxicity.

Ca2+-binding affinities (Kd) using phenylalanine and tyrosine fluorescence were found to be 1.15 ± 0.68 X 10-5 M and 2.04 ± 0.02 X 10-6 M for the N- and C-terminal domains, respectively. The Kd for Pb2+-binding in the N-terminal domain, 1.40 ± 0.30 X 10-6 M, was 8-fold higher than Ca2+. Binding of Pb2+ in the C-terminal domain produced a biphasic response with Kd values 7.34 ± 0.95 X 10-7 M and 1.93 ± 0.32 X 10-6 M, suggesting a single higher affinity Pb2+-binding site in the C-terminal domain with nearly equivalent affinity for the remaining sites. Competitive effects of Pb2+ added to Ca2+-loaded CaM were examined using multiple NMR techniques. Pb2+ was found to displace Ca2+ only in the N-terminal domain, however structural/dynamic changes were observed in the central helix apparently due to Pb2+-binding in secondary sites. These data supported our hypothesis that CaM structure and function is altered by opportunistic Pb2+-binding.

Included in

Chemistry Commons

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