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Reversible association of proteins into sub-visible amorphous aggregates using short solubility controlling peptide tags

Kabir, Md. Golam, Islam, Mohammad Monirul, Kuroda, Yutaka
BBA - Proteins and Proteomics 2017
amino acids, cattle, circular dichroism spectroscopy, denaturation, hydrodynamics, hydrophobicity, light scattering, models, oligomerization, pepsin, peptides, protein solubility, protein tagging, proteins, proteolysis, proteomics, thermal stability, trypsin inhibitors
Careful analysis of sub-visible amorphous aggregates, where proteins associate non-covalently in either native or denatured states without forming a specific quaternary structure, may shed insight into the mechanisms of protein aggregation and solubility. Here we report a biophysical and biochemical analysis of our model protein, a bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor variant (BPTI-19A), whose oligomerization were controlled by attaching solubility controlling peptide tags (SCP tags) to its C terminus, which are short peptides composed of a single type of amino acid that modulate protein solubility. The dynamic light scattering and static light scattering at 25°C indicated that 11 out of 15 SCP tags merely affected the hydrodynamic radius and light scattering intensity of our reference variants BPTI-19A and BPTI-C2G. On the other hand, hydrophobic SCP tags composed of 5 Ile (C5I) or 5 Leu (C5L) were associated into sub-visible aggregates. Circular dichroism indicated that all tagged BPTI variants had the same secondary structure contents as the reference BPTI-19A at 25°C, suggesting that BPTI-C5I and C5L kept their native structure upon association. Furthermore, the thermal denaturation of all of the BPTI variants was fully reversible and typical of natively folded small globular proteins, as monitored by CD at 222 nm. However, the thermal stability of BPTI-19A tagged with hydrophobic residues decreased with increasing protein concentration and tag's hydrophobicity, and BPTI-C5I and C5L were partially denatured at 37°C. Biochemical stability assessed by limited proteolysis with pepsin correlated with the extent of the variants' aggregation, and the large sub-visible aggregates formed by BPTI-C5I and C5L significantly increased their resistance to pepsin proteolysis. Altogether, these observations indicated that hydrophobic SCP tags led to the reversible association of native-like proteins into sub-visible soluble amorphous aggregates resistant to pepsin digestion.