Loop Mutations can cause a substantial conformational change in the carboxy terminus of the ferritin protein

Roberto Jappelli, Alessandra Luzzago, Paola Tataseo, Ida Pernice, Gianni Cesareni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although some protein folding theories sustain that the peptides (loops) that connect elements of more compact secondary structure may be important in the folding process, most of the data accumulated until now seems to contradict this notion. To approach this problem we have isolated and characterized a number of mutants in which the amino acid sequence of the peptide that connects helix D and helix E in the H-chain of human ferritin has been randomized. Our results indicate that, though no single loop residue is absolutely required for ferritin to attain the native conformation, most of the mutants that we have obtained by random regional mutagenesis, affect its folding/assembly process. This conclusion was reached utilizing a sensitive test that associates the color formed by a colony synthesizing a hybrid ferritin-β-galactosidase protein to the ability of the ferritin domain to fold and assemble as the native protein. The characterization of the folding/assembly properties of our collection of mutants and the comparison of the mutant loop sequences, have allowed us to draw the following conclusions. Mutants that have positively charged residues at position 159, 160 or 161 fail to assemble into the native protein shell and form an insoluble aggregate. Interestingly some loop amino acid sequences cause the E-helix to reverse direction and to expose its COOH group, normally hidden inside the protein cavity, to the solvent. The propensity of a given ferritin mutant to fold into this "non-native" conformation can be attenuated by the introduction of Gly at position 159 and 164, as in the natural ferritin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-543
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 20 1992


  • ferritin
  • loops
  • protein folding
  • protein fusion
  • turns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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