Role of the conserved SRLFDQFFG region of alpha-crystallin, a small heat shock protein. Effect on oligomeric size, subunit exchange, and chaperone-like activity

J Biol Chem. 2003 Dec 19;278(51):51159-66. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M307523200. Epub 2003 Oct 7.


Small heat shock proteins (sHsps) are necessary for several cellular functions and in stress tolerance. Most sHsps are oligomers; intersubunit interactions leading to changes in oligomeric structure and exposure of specific regions may modulate their functioning. Many sHsps, including alpha A- and alpha B-crystallin, contain a well conserved SRLFDQFFG sequence motif in the N-terminal region. Sequence-based prediction shows that it exhibits helical propensity with amphipathic character, suggesting that it plays a critical role in the structure and function of alpha-crystallins. In order to investigate the role of this motif in the structure and function of sHsps, we have made constructs deleting this sequence from alpha A- and alpha B-crystallin, overexpressed, purified, and studied these engineered proteins. Circular dichroism spectroscopic studies show changes in tertiary and secondary structure on deletion of the sequence. Glycerol density gradient centrifugation and dynamic light scattering studies show that the multimeric size of the mutant proteins is significantly reduced, indicating a role for this motif in higher order organization of the subunits. Both deletion mutants exhibit similar oligomeric size and increased chaperone-like activity. Urea-induced denaturation study shows that the SRLFDQFFG sequence contributes significantly to the structural stability. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer studies show that the rate of exchange of the subunits in the alpha Adel-crystallin oligomer is higher compared with that in the alpha A-crystallin oligomer, suggesting that this region contributes to the oligomer dynamics in addition to the higher order assembly and structural stability. Thus, our study shows that the SRLFDQFFG sequence is one of the critical motifs in structure-function regulation of alpha A- and alpha B-crystallin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / physiology
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Conserved Sequence / physiology*
  • Dimerization
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / chemistry*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Protein Engineering
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Subunits
  • Sequence Deletion
  • alpha-Crystallins / chemistry*
  • alpha-Crystallins / genetics
  • alpha-Crystallins / isolation & purification


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Protein Subunits
  • alpha-Crystallins