Optical control of protein-protein interactions via blue light-induced domain swapping.

PMID 25003701


The design of new optogenetic tools for controlling protein function would be facilitated by the development of protein scaffolds that undergo large, well-defined structural changes upon exposure to light. Domain swapping, a process in which a structural element of a monomeric protein is replaced by the same element of another copy of the same protein, leads to a well-defined change in protein structure. We observe domain swapping in a variant of the blue light photoreceptor photoactive yellow protein in which a surface loop is replaced by a well-characterized protein-protein interaction motif, the E-helix. In the domain-swapped dimer, the E-helix sequence specifically binds a partner K-helix sequence, whereas in the monomeric form of the protein, the E-helix sequence is unable to fold into a binding-competent conformation and no interaction with the K-helix is seen. Blue light irradiation decreases the extent of domain swapping (from Kd = 10 μM to Kd = 300 μM) and dramatically enhances the rate, from weeks to <1 min. Blue light-induced domain swapping thus provides a novel mechanism for controlling of protein-protein interactions in which light alters both the stability and the kinetic accessibility of binding-competent states.