Suppression of conformational heterogeneity at a protein-protein interface.

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Staphylococcal protein A (SpA) is an important virulence factor from Staphylococcus aureus responsible for the bacterium's evasion of the host immune system. SpA includes five small three-helix-bundle domains that can each bind with high affinity to many host proteins such as antibodies. The interaction between a SpA domain and the Fc fragment of IgG was partially elucidated previously in the crystal structure 1FC2. Although informative, the previous structure was not properly folded and left many substantial questions unanswered, such as a detailed description of the tertiary structure of SpA domains in complex with Fc and the structural changes that take place upon binding. Here we report the 2.3-Å structure of a fully folded SpA domain in complex with Fc. Our structure indicates that there are extensive structural rearrangements necessary for binding Fc, including a general reduction in SpA conformational heterogeneity, freezing out of polyrotameric interfacial residues, and displacement of a SpA side chain by an Fc side chain in a molecular-recognition pocket. Such a loss of conformational heterogeneity upon formation of the protein-protein interface may occur when SpA binds its multiple binding partners. Suppression of conformational heterogeneity may be an important structural paradigm in functionally plastic proteins.





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Deis, Lindsay N, Qinglin Wu, You Wang, Yang Qi, Kyle G Daniels, Pei Zhou and Terrence G Oas (2015). Suppression of conformational heterogeneity at a protein-protein interface. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112(29). pp. 9028–9033. 10.1073/pnas.1424724112 Retrieved from

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Pei Zhou

Professor of Biochemistry

The Zhou lab focuses on the elucidation of the structure and dynamics of protein–protein and protein–ligand interactions and their functions in various cellular processes. Our current efforts are directed at enzymes and protein complexes involved in bacterial membrane biosynthesis, translesion DNA synthesis, co-transcriptional regulation, and host-pathogen interactions. Our investigations of these important cellular machineries have led to the development of novel antibiotics and cancer therapeutics, as well as the establishment of new biotechnology adventures.


The Zhou lab integrates a variety of biochemical and biophysical tools, including NMR, X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM, and enzymology. The lab has played a major role in the development and application of innovative NMR technologies, including high-resolution, high-dimensional spectral reconstruction techniques.


Terrence Gilbert Oas

Professor of Biochemistry

Our laboratory is primarily interested in the mechanisms of protein folding. We use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and other types of spectroscopy to study the solution structure, stability and folding reactions of small protein models. These include monomeric λ repressor, the B domain of protein A (BdpA) and various regulator of G-protein signalling (RGS) domains. Our biophysical studies are used to inform our investigations of the role of folding mechanism in the function of proteins in the cell. For example, a naturally occuring cancer-causing mutation in the RGS domain of axin appears to lower the thermodynamic stability of the domain. We are developing methods to compensate for such destabilizing mutations, thereby restoring normal function to the protein.We are also developing computational models of protein folding as a way to better understand the mechanisms and as a tool in the design of new experiments.

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