Rapid evolution in conformational space: A study of loop regions in a ubiquitous GTP binding domain

Christian Blouin, Davin Butt, Andrew James Roger
2004 Protein Science  
The rapidly evolving subsets of a protein are often evident in multiple sequence alignments as poorly defined, gap-containing regions. We investigated the 3D context of these regions observed in 28 protein structures containing a GTP-binding domain assumed to be homologous to the transforming factor p21-RAS. The phylogenetic depth of this data set is such that it is possible to observe lineages sharing a common protein core that diverged early in the eukaryotic cell history. The sequence
more » ... lity among these homolog proteins is directly linked to the structural variability of surface loops. We demonstrate that these regions are self-contained and thus mostly free of the evolutionary constraints imposed by the conserved core of the domain. These intraloop interactions have the property to create stem-like structures. Interestingly, these stem-like structures can be observed in loops of varying size, up to the size of small protein domains. We propose a model under which the diversity of protein topologies observed in these loops can be the product of a stochastic sampling of sequence and conformational space in a near-neutral fashion, while the proximity of the functional features of the domain core allows novel beneficial traits to be fixed. Our comparative observations, limited here to the proteins containing the RAS-like GTP-binding domain, suggest that a stochastic process of insertion/deletion analogous to "budding" of loops is a likely mechanism of structural innovation. Such a framework could be experimentally exploited to investigate the folding of increasingly complex model inserts.
doi:10.1110/ps.03299804 pmid:14978301 pmcid:PMC2286719 fatcat:r44xi3uvanh4rjz4mbhkozj7ii