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Reversible pH-controlled DNA-binding peptide nanotweezers: An in-silico study

Authors Sharma G, Rege K, Budil DE, Yarmush ML, Mavroidis C

Published 5 December 2008 Volume 2008:3(4) Pages 505—521

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S4046

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Gaurav Sharma1, Kaushal Rege2,3, David E Budil4, Martin L Yarmush2,5, Constantinos Mavroidis1

1Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; 4Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA; 2The Center for Engineering in Medicine (CEM), Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; 3Department of Chemical Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA; 5Department of Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers University, NJ, USA

Abstract: We describe the molecular dynamics (MD)-aided engineering design of mutant peptides based on the α-helical coiled-coil GCN4 leucine zipper peptide (GCN4-p1) in order to obtain environmentally-responsive nanotweezers. The actuation mechanism of the nanotweezers depends on the modification of electrostatic charges on the residues along the length of the coiled coil. Modulating the solution pH between neutral and acidic values results in the reversible movement of helices toward and away from each other and creates a complete closed-open-closed transition cycle between the helices. Our results indicate that the mutants show a reversible opening of up to 15 Å (1.5 nm; approximately 150% of the initial separation) upon pH actuation. Investigation on the physicochemical phenomena that influence conformational properties, structural stability, and reversibility of the coiled-coil peptide-based nanotweezers revealed that a rationale- and design-based approach is needed to engineer stable peptide or macromolecules into stimuli-responsive devices. The efficacy of the mutant that demonstrated the most significant reversible actuation for environmentally responsive modulation of DNA-binding activity was also demonstrated. Our results have significant implications in bioseparations and in the engineering of novel transcription factors.

Keywords: bionanotechnology, nanotweezers, coiled-coil, GCN4, leucine zipper, molecular dynamics, environmentally responsive peptides, transcription factor engineering

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