Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) indicated that PDZ3 undergoes a peculiar thermal denaturation, exhibiting two endothermic peaks because of the formation of reversible oligomers at high temperature (N↔I6↔D). This contrasts sharply with the standard two-state denaturation model observed for small, globular proteins. We performed an alanine scanning analysis by individually mutating three hydrophobic residues at the crystallographic oligomeric interface (Phe340, Leu342, and Ile389) and one away from the interface (Leu349, as a control). DSC analysis indicated that PDZ3-F340A and PDZ3-L342A exhibited a single endothermic peak. Furthermore, PDZ3-L342A underwent a perfect two-state denaturation, as evidenced by the single endothermic peak and confirmed by detailed DSC analysis, including global fitting of data measured at different protein concentrations. Reversible oligomerization (RO) at high temperatures by small globular proteins is a rare event. Furthermore, our present study showing that a point mutation, L342A, designed based on the crystal structure inhibited RO is surprising because RO occurs at a high-temperature. Future studies will determine how and why mutations designed using crystal structures determined at ambient temperatures influence the formation of RO at high temperatures, and whether high-temperature ROs are related to the propensity of proteins to aggregate or precipitate at lower temperatures, which would provide a novel and unique way of controlling protein solubility and aggregation.
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