We have investigated the physical nature of the observed coupling energy (Delta Delta DeltaGint) between the charged side-chains of the three inter-helical g<-->e' (i, i'+5) pairs (E<-->R, E<-->K, and E<-->E) in the leucine zipper coiled coil dimer. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy measured the thermal stability of eight proteins derived from the basic region leucine zipper domain of chicken VBP, the mammalian TEF at seven pHs and three KCl concentrations. Data from these proteins were used to construct double mutant alanine thermodynamic cycles and determine coupling energies (Delta Delta DeltaGint) for the three g<-->e' pairs. The attractive E<-->R coupling energy of -0.6 kcal mol-1 at low salt decreases to -0.2 kcal mol-1 at high salt. The E<-->K coupling energy of -0.5 kcal mol-1 at low salt decreases to -0.1 kcal mol-1 at high salt. The repulsive E<-->E coupling energy of +0.8 kcal mol-1 at low salt drops to +0.4 at high salt. Reducing the pH to 2.2 halved the attractive coupling energy for the E<-->R and E<-->K pairs while abolishing the repulsion of the E<-->E pair. 13C NMR of a protein selectively labeled with [13Cdelta]glutamate that contained three E<-->R and one R<-->E pair identified four glutamates shifted upfield. We suggest that this is due to electronic perturbation of glutamates in inter-helical E<-->R interactions. Taken together, these data indicate that the E<-->R coupling energy of -0.5 kcal mol-1 at pH 7.4 and 150 mM KCl has an electrostatic component.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press Limited.