Krokhotin A, Liwo A, Niemi AJ, Scheraga HA
J Chem Phys 137 (3) 035101 [2012-07-21; online 2012-07-27]
A heterodimer consisting of two or more different kinds of proteins can display an enormous number of distinct molecular architectures. The conformational entropy is an essential ingredient in the Helmholtz free energy and, consequently, these heterodimers can have a very complex phase structure. Here, it is proposed that there is a state of proteins, in which the different components of a heterodimer exist in different phases. For this purpose, the structures in the protein data bank (PDB) have been analyzed, with radius of gyration as the order parameter. Two major classes of heterodimers with their protein components coexisting in different phases have been identified. An example is the PDB structure 3DXC. This is a transcriptionally active dimer. One of the components is an isoform of the intra-cellular domain of the Alzheimer-disease related amyloid precursor protein (AICD), and the other is a nuclear multidomain adaptor protein in the Fe65 family. It is concluded from the radius of gyration that neither of the two components in this dimer is in its own collapsed phase, corresponding to a biologically active protein. The UNRES energy function has been utilized to confirm that, if the two components are separated from each other, each of them collapses. The results presented in this work show that heterodimers whose protein components coexist in different phases, can have intriguing physical properties with potentially important biological consequences.