Straight-chain alkyl isocyanides open the distal histidine gate in crystal structures of myoglobin .

PMID 20481504


Crystal structures of methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl isocyanide bound to sperm whale myoglobin (Mb) reveal two major conformations. In the in conformer, His(E7) is in a "closed" position, forcing the ligand alkyl chain to point inward. In the out conformer, His(E7) is in an "open" position, allowing the ligand side chain to point outward. A progressive increase in the population of the out conformer is observed with increasing ligand length in P2(1) crystals of native Mb at pH 7.0. This switch from in to out with increasing ligand size also occurs in solution as measured by the decrease in the relative intensity of the low-frequency ( approximately 2075 cm(-1)) versus high-frequency ( approximately 2125 cm(-1)) isocyano bands. In contrast, all four isocyanides in P6 crystals of wild-type recombinant Mb occupy the in conformation. However, mutating either His64 to Ala, creating a "hole" to solvent, or Phe46 to Val, freeing rotation of His64, causes bound butyl isocyanide to point completely outward in P6 crystals. Thus, the unfavorable hindrance caused with crowding a large alkyl side chain into the distal pocket appears to be roughly equal to that for pushing open the His(E7) gate and is easily affected by crystal packing. This structural conclusion supports the "side path" kinetic mechanism for O(2) release, in which the dissociated ligand first moves toward the protein interior and then encounters steric resistance, which is roughly equal to that for escaping to solvent through the His(E7) channel.

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Butyl isocyanide, 97%