Role of nonspecific interactions in molecular chaperones through model-based bioinformatics.
Molecular chaperones are large proteins or protein complexes from which many proteins require assistance in order to fold. One unique property of molecular chaperones is the cavity they provide in which proteins fold. The interior surface residues which make up the cavities of molecular chaperone complexes from different organisms has recently been identified, including the well-studied GroEL-GroES chaperonin complex found in Escherichia coli. It was found that the interior of these protein complexes is significantly different than other protein surfaces and that the residues found on the protein surface are able to resist protein adsorption when immobilized on a surface. Yet it remains unknown if these residues passively resist protein binding inside GroEL-GroEs (as demonstrated by experiments that created synthetic mimics of the interior cavity) or if the interior also actively stabilizes protein folding. To answer this question, we have extended entropic models of substrate protein folding inside GroEL-GroES to include interaction energies between substrate proteins and the GroEL-GroES chaperone complex. This model was tested on a set of 528 proteins and the results qualitatively match experimental observations. The interior residues were found to strongly discourage the exposure of any hydrophobic residues, providing an enhanced hydrophobic effect inside the cavity that actively influences protein folding. This work provides both a mechanism for active protein stabilization in GroEL-GroES and a model that matches contemporary understanding of the chaperone protein. Copyright © 2012 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.