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Differential role of molten globule and protein folding in distinguishing unique features of botulinum neurotoxin

Kumar, R;Kukreja, RV;Cai, S;Singh, BR;

Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are proteins of great interest not only because of their extreme toxicity but also paradoxically for their therapeutic applications. All the known serotypes (A-G) have varying degrees of longevity and potency inside the neuronal cell. Differential chemical modifications such as phosphorylation and ubiquitination have been suggested as possible mechanisms for their longevity, but the molecular basis of the longevity remains unclear. Since the endopeptidase domain (light chain; LC) of toxin apparently survives inside the neuronal cells for months, it is important to examine the structural features of this domain to understand its resistance to intracellular degradation. Published crystal structures (both botulinum neurotoxins and endopeptidase domain) have not provided adequate explanation for the intracellular longevity of the domain. Structural features obtained from spectroscopic analysis of LCA and LCB were similar, and a PRIME (PReImminent Molten Globule Enzyme) conformation appears to be responsible for their optimal enzymatic activity at 37C. LCE, on the other hand, was although optimally active at 37C, but its active conformation differed from the PRIME conformation of LCA and LCB. This study establishes and confirms our earlier finding that an optimally active conformation of these proteins in the form of PRIME exists for the most poisonous poison, botulinum neurotoxin. There are substantial variations in the structural and functional characteristics of these active molten globule related structures among the three BoNT endopeptidases examined. These differential conformations of LCs are important in understanding the fundamental structural features of proteins, and their possible connection to intracellular longevity could provide significant clues for devising new countermeasures and effective therapeutics.