The conformational landscape of a protein is constantly expanded by genetic variations that have a minimal impact on the function(s) while causing subtle effects on protein structure. The wider the conformational space sampled by these variants, the higher the probabilities to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. However, the probability that a single mutation may result in a pathogenic phenotype also increases. Here we present a paradigmatic example of how protein evolution balances structural stability and dynamics to maximize protein adaptability and preserve protein fitness. We took advantage of known genetic variations of human alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT1), which is present as a common major allelic form (AGT‐Ma) and a minor polymorphic form (AGT‐Mi) expressed in 20% of Caucasian population. By integrating crystallographic studies and molecular dynamics simulations, we show that AGT‐Ma is endowed with structurally unstable (frustrated) regions, which become disordered in AGT‐Mi. An in‐depth biochemical characterization of variants from an anticonsensus library, encompassing the frustrated regions, correlates this plasticity to a fitness window defined by AGT‐Ma and AGT‐Mi. Finally, co‐immunoprecipitation analysis suggests that structural frustration in AGT1 could favor additional functions related to protein–protein interactions. These results expand our understanding of protein structural evolution by establishing that naturally occurring genetic variations tip the balance between stability and frustration to maximize the ensemble of conformations falling within a well‐defined fitness window, thus expanding the adaptability potential of the protein.
Primary hyperoxaluria type I (PH1) is a rare kidney disease
to the deficit of alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT), a pyridoxal-5′-phosphate-dependent
enzyme responsible for liver glyoxylate detoxification, which in turn
prevents oxalate formation and precipitation as kidney stones. Many
PH1-associated missense mutations cause AGT misfolding. Therefore,
the use of pharmacological chaperones (PCs), small molecules that
promote correct folding, represents a useful therapeutic option. To
identify ligands acting as PCs for AGT, we first performed a small
screening of commercially available compounds. We tested each molecule
by a dual approach aimed at defining the inhibition potency on purified
proteins and the chaperone activity in cells expressing a misfolded
variant associated with PH1. We then performed a chemical optimization
campaign and tested the resulting synthetic molecules using the same
approach. Overall, the results allowed us to identify a promising
hit compound for AGT and draw conclusions about the requirements for
optimal PC activity.
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