Structure and dynamics of proteins that inhibit complement activation
NMR studies have long been used as a tool to derive structural and dynamic information. Such information has a wide range of applications, and notably is used in the study of structure-activity relationships. The aims of this work were to use NMR spectroscopy to derive structures of the molecules inhibiting the activation of the alternative pathway of the complement portion of the innate immune system (namely, the N-terminus of factor H (FH) and two small peptides, Compstatin 10 and Compstatin 20) and to consider the interdomain dynamics of proteins consisting of three modules theoretically (in silico) and experimentally (for the three N-terminal domains of FH). We focused on the three N-terminal complement control protein (CCP) domains of the important complement regulator, human factor H (i.e. FH1-3). Its three-dimensional solution structure was derived based on nuclear Overhauser effects and residual dipolar couplings (RDCs). Each of the three CCP modules in this structure was similar to the corresponding CCP in the previously derived C3b-bound structure of FH1-4, but the relative orientations of the domains were different. These orientations were additionally different from the interdomain orientations in other molecules that interact with C3b, such as DAF2-4 and CR1-15-17. The measured RDC datasets, collected under three different conditions in media containing magnetically aligned bicelles (disk-like particles formed from phospholipids), were used to estimate interdomain motions in FH1-3. A method in which the data was fitted to a structural ensemble was used to analyze such interdomain flexibility. More than 80% of the conformers of this predominantly extended three-domain molecule exhibit flexions of < 40°. Such segmental flexibility (together with the local dynamics of the hypervariable loop within domain 3) could facilitate recognition of C3b via initial anchoring, as well as eventual reorganization of modules into the conformation captured in the previously solved crystal structure of a C3b complex with FH1-4. The NMR study of the Compstatin analogues revealed unique structural features that had not before been observed in this group of peptides. These features included two b-turns per peptide, neither of which was located in the ‘canonical’ regions in which b-turns were observed in previous molecular dynamics and NMR studies. The structures of Compstatin 10 and Compstatin 20 derived here were consistent with the isothermal calorimetry (ITC) and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) data recorded previously. In the in silico study of interdomain motion of three-domain proteins carried out here, the domains were represented as vectors attached to one another in a linear fashion. They were allowed to undergo Brownian motion biased by the potentials between the sequential vectors. The resulting trajectories were analyzed using model-free and extended model-free formalism. The degree of coupling of the interdomain motion with overall motion was determined, along with a representation of the overall motion. The similarity between the trajectories of the vectors transformed to this overall motion frame and the results obtained from the model-free analysis was determined.