Combining Ancestral Reconstruction with Folding-Landscape Simulations to Engineer Heterologous Protein Expression.
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AuteurGámiz Arco, María Gloria; Risso, Valeria Alejandra; Gaucher, Eric A.; Gavira, Jose A.; Naganathan, Athi N.; Ibarra Molero, Beatriz; Sánchez Ruiz, José Manuel
Ancestral sequence reconstructionComputational modelling of protein folding landscapesHeterologous protein expressionProteins from uncultured organismsObligate symbionts
G. Gamiz-Arco, V.A. Risso, E.A. Gaucher, et al. Combining Ancestral Reconstruction with Folding-Landscape Simulations to Engineer Heterologous Protein Expression. Journal of Molecular Biology 433 (2021) 167321. [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2021.167321]
PatrocinadorNational Science Foundation 2032315; National Institutes of Health 01AR069137; U.S. Department of Defense 911NF-16-1-0372; Human Frontier Science Program RGP0041/2017; European Synchrotron Radiation Facility; Science and Engineering Research Board MTR/2019/000392; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación RTI-2018-097142-B-100
Obligate symbionts typically exhibit high evolutionary rates. Consequently, their proteins may differ considerably from their modern and ancestral homologs in terms of both sequence and properties, thus providing excellent models to study protein evolution. Also, obligate symbionts are challenging to culture in the lab and proteins from uncultured organisms must be produced in heterologous hosts using recombinant DNA technology. Obligate symbionts thus replicate a fundamental scenario of metagenomics studies aimed at the functional characterization and biotechnological exploitation of proteins from the bacteria in soil. Here, we use the thioredoxin from Candidatus Photodesmus katoptron, an uncultured symbiont of flashlight fish, to explore evolutionary and engineering aspects of protein folding in heterologous hosts. The symbiont protein is a standard thioredoxin in terms of 3D-structure, stability and redox activity. However, its folding outside the original host is severely impaired, as shown by a very slow refolding in vitro and an inefficient expression in E. coli that leads mostly to insoluble protein. By contrast, resurrected Precambrian thioredoxins express efficiently in E. coli, plausibly reflecting an ancient adaptation to unassisted folding. We have used a statistical-mechanical model of the folding landscape to guide back-to-ancestor engineering of the symbiont protein. Remarkably, we find that the efficiency of heterologous expression correlates with the in vitro (i.e., unassisted) folding rate and that the ancestral expression efficiency can be achieved with only 1–2 back-to-ancestor replacements. These results demonstrate a minimal-perturbation, sequence-engineering approach to rescue inefficient heterologous expression which may potentially be useful in metagenomics efforts targeting recent adaptations.