Design and Structural Characterization of Self-Assembling Triple Helical Heterotrimers
Fallas Valverde, Jorge
Hartgerink, Jeffrey D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Design of self-assembling ABC-type collagen triple helical heterotrimers is challenging due to the number of competing species that can be formed in ternary mixture of peptides with a high propensity to fold into triple helices and the fact that well understood rules for pair-wise amino acid stabilization of the canonical collagen triple helix have remained elusive. Given the required one amino acid stagger between adjacent peptide strands in this fold, a ternary mixture of peptides can form as many as 27 triple helices with unique composition or register. Previously we have demonstrated that electrostatic interactions can be used to bias the helix population towards a desired target but the presence of competing states in mixtures has remained an outstanding problem. In this work we use high-resolution structural biology techniques to do a detailed study of stabilizing pair-wise interactions between positively and negatively charged amino acids in triple helices. Two types of contacts with distinct sequence requirements depending on the relative stagger of the interacting chains are observed: axial and lateral. Such register-specific interactions are crucial for the understanding of the registration process of collagens and the overall stability of proteins in this family. Using this knowledge we developed distinct design strategies to improve the specificity of our designed systems towards the desired ABC heterotrimeric target state. We validate our strategies through the synthesis and characterization of the designed sequences and show that they self-assemble into a highly stable ABC triple helices with control over composition in the case of the rational approach and with control over both composition and register in the case of the computational approach.