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X-ray diffraction and structure of crystallins

Slingsby, C., Norledge, B., Simpson, A., Bateman, O.A., Wright, G., Driessen, H.P.C., Lindley, P.F., Moss, D.S. and Bax, B. ORCID: 1997. X-ray diffraction and structure of crystallins. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 16 (1) , pp. 3-29. 10.1016/S1350-9462(96)00018-3

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The 3-dimensional organisation of crystallin polypeptides into globular proteins and their interactions into higher order structures are important factors governing optical functions related to refraction, accommodation and transparency. Single crystal X-ray diffraction studies have revealed the tertiary and quaternary structural organisation of β-, γ- and δ-crystallins. Regions of the lens with high refractive index contain high levels of monomeric y-crystallins while the accommodating, hydrated avian lens has largely replaced γ-crystallins with δ-crystallin. The βγ-crystallins form a superfamily of proteins of high symmetry and great diversity in which the basic building block is a 10 kD pseudo-symmetrical 2-Greek key domain. A γ-crystallin comprises two of these β-sheet domains, joined by a linker, and a short C-terminal extension. In β-crystallins the linker has an extended conformation resulting in dimer formation by a mechanism known as domain swapping. Crystallographic analysis of engineered single domains of γ-crystallins, analogous to the ancestral domain, has indicated the importance of the short C-terminal extension in directing domain pairing. γ-crystallins have numerous cysteine residues, some are conserved in the core of the protein molecule and some are variable on the protein surface. The structure of γB-crystallin has been determined at very high resolution using cryo-crystallography allowing the visualisation of the complete protein-protein and protein-water structure at the surface. β-crystallins are seen as tetramers in the crystal structures but their long sequence extensions are harder to visualise in the electron density of the hydrated crystal lattice structure. In one tight packing lattice of βB2 crystallin the N-terminal extension is seen to mediate protein-protein interactions between tetramers to form a 42 helix. The X-ray structure of the taxon-restricted avian δ-crystallin shows that the 50 kD subunit contains 22 helices that form three α-helical domains which dimerise followed by a dimer-dimer interaction to form a tetramer with a 20-helix bundle at the centre. Analysis of the spatial disposition of the sequence conserved regions showed the location of the active site cleft of the superfamily of enzymes related to δ-crystallin and argininosuccinate lyase. A different crystal structure of δ-crystallin solved under more physiological conditions revealed that tetramers assembled as higher order supramolecular helices and that the N-terminal extension may be involved. Combining the observations of higher order helical structures in both the oligomeric β-crystallin and δ-crystallin crystal lattices, we have proposed a highly speculative model for crystallin assembly in the lens fibre cells.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1350-9462
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2022 14:03

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