The Structural Dynamics of Alpha-Tropomyosin on F-Actin Shape the Overlap Complex between Adjacent Tropomyosin Molecules

Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University School of Medicine, 72 East Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118 USA. Electronic address: .
Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (Impact Factor: 3.02). 09/2013; 552(2). DOI: 10.1016/
Source: PubMed


Coiled-coil tropomyosin, localized on actin filaments in virtually all eukaryotic cells, serves as a gatekeeper regulating access of the motor protein myosin and other actin-binding proteins onto the thin filament surface. Tropomyosin's modular pseudo-repeating pattern of approximately 39 amino acid residues is designed to allow binding of the coiled-coil to successive actin subunits along thin filaments. Even though different tropomyosin isoforms contain varying numbers of repeat modules, the pseudo-repeat length, in all cases, matches that of a single actin subunit. Thus, the seven pseudo-repeats of 42 nm long muscle tropomyosin bind to seven successive actin subunits along thin filaments, while simultaneously bending into a super-helical conformation that is preshaped to the actin filament helix. In order to form a continuous cable on thin filaments that is free of gaps, adjacent tropomyosin molecules polymerize head-to-tail by means of a short (∼9 residue) overlap. Several laboratories have engineered peptides to mimic the N- and C-terminal tropomyosin association and to characterize the overlap structure. All overlapping domains examined show a compact N-terminal coiled-coil inserting into a partially opened C-terminal partner, where the opposing coiled-coils at the overlap junction face each other at up to ∼90° twist angles. Here, Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations were carried out to determine constraints on the formation of the tropomyosin overlap complex and to assess the amount of twisting exhibited by full-length tropomyosin when bound to actin. With the exception of the last 20 to 40 C- and N-terminal residues, we find that the average tropomyosin structure closely resembles a "canonical" model proposed in the classic work of McLachlan and Stewart, displaying perfectly symmetrical supercoil geometry matching the F-actin helix with an integral number of coiled-coil turns, a coiled-coil helical pitch of 137 Å, a superhelical pitch of 770 Å, and no localized pseudo-rotation. Over the middle 70% of tropomyosin, the average twisting of the coiled-coil deviates only by 10° from the canonical model and the torsional freedom is very small (std. dev. of 7°). This small degree of twisting cannot yield the orthogonal N- and C-termini configuration observed experimentally. In marked contrast, considerable coiled-coil unfolding, splaying and twisting at N- and C-terminal ends is observed, providing the conformational plasticity needed for head-to-tail nexus formation.

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    • "Hence, tropomyosin is not only bent to the shape of actin, but component pseudo-repeats in each of the models are appropriately twisted to optimize actin-tropomyosin charge-charge sequence complementarity . The distinctive geometry that distinguishes these contacts in each of the models is retained over every tropomyosin pseudo-repeat and actin (Lehman et al., 2014). Testing the effect of appropriate charge-reversal mutation of b-zone residues on the binding and assembly of thin filaments would be valuable. "
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    ABSTRACT: Coiled-coil tropomyosin binds to consecutive actin-subunits along actin-containing thin filaments. Tropomyosin molecules then polymerize head-to-tail to form cables that wrap helically around the filaments. Little is known about the assembly process that leads to continuous, gap-free tropomyosin cable formation. We propose that tropomyosin molecules diffuse over the actin-filament surface to connect head-to-tail to partners. This possibility is likely because (1) tropomyosin hovers loosely over the actin-filament, thus binding weakly to F-actin and (2) low energy-barriers provide tropomyosin freedom for 1D axial translation on F-actin. We consider that these unique features of the actin-tropomyosin interaction are the basis of tropomyosin cable formation.
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    ABSTRACT: To be effective as a gatekeeper regulating the access of binding proteins to the actin filament, adjacent tropomyosin molecules associate head-to-tail to form a continuous super-helical cable running along the filament surface. Chimeric head-to-tail structures have been solved by NMR and X-ray crystallography for N- and C-terminal segments of smooth and striated muscle tropomyosin spliced onto non-native coiled-coil forming peptides. The resulting 4-helix complexes have a tight coiled-coil N-terminus inserted into a separated pair of C-terminal helices, with some helical unfolding of the terminal chains in the striated muscle peptides. These overlap complexes are distinctly curved, much more so than elsewhere along the superhelical tropomyosin cable. To verify whether the non-native protein adducts (needed to stabilize the coiled-coil chimeras) perturb the overlap, we carried out Molecular Dynamics simulations of head-to-tail structures having only native tropomyosin sequences We observe that the splayed chains all refold and become helical. Significantly, the curvature of both the smooth and the striated muscle overlap domain is reduced and becomes comparable to that of the rest of the tropomyosin cable. Moreover, the measured flexibility across the junction is small. This and the reduced curvature ensure that the super-helical cable matches the contours of F-actin without manifesting localized kinking and excessive flexibility, thus enabling the high degree of cooperativity in the regulation of myosin accessibility to actin filaments.
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