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"Kinetically driven refolding of the hyperstable EBNA1 origin DNA-binding dimeric ßbarrel domain into amyloid-like spherical oligomers"
E. Freire, C. Oddo, L. Frappier and G. de Prat Gay
Proteins 70(2) (2008) 450-461
The Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) is essential for DNA replication and episome segregation of the viral genome, and participates in other gene regulatory processes of the Epstein-Barr virus in benign and malignant diseases related to this virus. Despite the participation of other regions of the protein in evading immune response, its DNA binding, dimeric ß-barrel domain (residues 452.641) is necessary and sufficient for the main functions. This domain has an unusual topology only shared by another viral origin binding protein (OBP), the E2 DNA binding domain of papillomaviruses. Both the amino acid and DNA target sequences are completely different for these two proteins, indicating a link between fold conservation and function. In this work we investigated the folding and stability of the DNA binding domain of EBNA1 OBP and found it is extremely resistant to chemical, temperature, and pH denaturation. The thiocyanate salt of guanidine is required for obtaining a complete transition to a monomeric unfolded state. The unfolding reaction is extremely slow and shows a marked uncoupling between tertiary and secondary structure, indicating the presence of intermediate species. The Gdm.SCN unfolded protein refolds to fully soluble and spherical oligomeric species of 1.2 MDa molecular weight, with identical fluorescence centre of spectral mass but different intensity and different secondary structure. The refolded spherical oligomers are substantially less stable than the native recombinant dimer. In keeping with the substantial structural rearrangement in the oligomers, the spherical oligomers do not bind DNA, indicating that the DNA binding site is either disrupted or participates in the oligomerization interface. The puzzling extreme stability of a dimeric DNA binding domain from a protein from a human infecting virus in addition to a remarkable kinetically driven folding where all molecules do not return to the most stable original species suggests a co-translational and directional folding of EBNA1 in vivo, possibly assisted by folding accessory proteins. Finally, the oligomers bind Congo red and thioflavin-T, both characteristic of repetitive β-sheet elements of structure found in amyloids and their soluble precursors. The stable nature of the “kinetically trapped” oligomers suggest their value as models for understanding amyloid intermediates, their toxic nature, and the progress to amyloid fibers in misfolding diseases. The possible role of the EBNA1 spherical oligomers in the virus biology is discussed.
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