Equilibrium conformational ensemble of the intrinsically disordered peptide n16N: Linking subdomain structures and function in nacre

Aaron H. Brown, P. Mark Rodger, John Spencer Evans, Tiffany R. Walsh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    n16 is a framework protein family associated with biogenic mineral stabilization, thought to operate at three key interfaces in nacre: protein/β-chitin, protein/protein, and protein/CaCO3. The N-terminal half of this protein, n16N, is known to be active in conferring this mineral stabilization and organization. While some details relating to the stabilization and organization of the mineral are known, the molecular mechanisms that underpin these processes are not yet established. To provide these molecular-scale details, here we explore current hypotheses regarding the possible subdomain organization of n16N, as related to these three interfaces in nacre, by combining outcomes of Replica Exchange with Solute Tempering molecular dynamics simulations with NMR experiments, to investigate the conformational ensemble of n16N in solution. We verify that n16N lacks a well-defined secondary structure, both with and without the presence of Ca2+ ions, as identified from previous experiments. Our data support the presence of three different, functional subdomains within n16N. Our results reveal that tyrosine, chiefly located in the center of the peptide, plays a multifunctional role in stabilizing conformations of n16N, for intrapeptide and possibly interpeptide interactions. Complementary NMR spectroscopy data confirm the participation of tyrosine in this stabilization. The C-terminal half of n16N, lacking in tyrosine and highly charged, shows substantive conformational diversity and is proposed as a likely site for nucleation of calcium carbonate. Finally, dominant structures from our predicted conformational ensemble suggest the presentation of key residues thought to be critical to the selective binding to β-chitin surfaces.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)4467-4479
    Number of pages13
    Issue number12
    StatePublished - Dec 8 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Bioengineering
    • Biomaterials
    • Polymers and Plastics
    • Materials Chemistry


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