Engineering a Conformationally Switchable Artificial Metalloprotein

J Am Chem Soc. 2022 Nov 30;144(47):21606-21616. doi: 10.1021/jacs.2c08885. Epub 2022 Nov 15.


Many naturally occurring metalloenzymes are gated by rate-limiting conformational changes, and there exists a critical interplay between macroscopic structural rearrangements of the protein and subatomic changes affecting the electronic structure of embedded metallocofactors. Despite this connection, most artificial metalloproteins (ArMs) are prepared in structurally rigid protein hosts. To better model the natural mechanisms of metalloprotein reactivity, we have developed conformationally switchable ArMs (swArMs) that undergo a large-scale structural rearrangement upon allosteric effector binding. The swArMs reported here contain a Co(dmgH)2(X) cofactor (dmgH = dimethylglyoxime and X = N3-, H3C-, and iPr-). We used UV-vis absorbance and energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopies, along with protein assays, and mass spectrometry to show that these metallocofactors are installed site-specifically and stoichiometrically via direct Co-S cysteine ligation within the Escherichia coli glutamine binding protein (GlnBP). Structural characterization by single-crystal X-ray diffraction unveils the precise positioning and microenvironment of the metallocofactor within the protein fold. Fluorescence, circular dichroism, and infrared spectroscopies, along with isothermal titration calorimetry, reveal that allosteric Gln binding drives a large-scale protein conformational change. In swArMs containing a Co(dmgH)2(CH3) cofactor, we show that the protein stabilizes the otherwise labile Co-S bond relative to the free complex. Kinetics studies performed as a function of temperature and pH reveal that the protein conformational change accelerates this bond dissociation in a pH-dependent fashion. We present swArMs as a robust platform for investigating the interplay between allostery and metallocofactor regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Circular Dichroism
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Metalloproteins* / chemistry


  • Metalloproteins