Palovcak E, Delemotte L, Klein ML, Carnevale V
J Gen Physiol 143 (2) 145-156 [2014-02-00; online 2014-01-27]
Voltage-sensor domains (VSDs) are modular biomolecular machines that transduce electrical signals in cells through a highly conserved activation mechanism. Here, we investigate sequence-function relationships in VSDs with approaches from information theory and probabilistic modeling. Specifically, we collect over 6,600 unique VSD sequences from diverse, long-diverged phylogenetic lineages and relate the statistical properties of this ensemble to functional constraints imposed by evolution. The VSD is a helical bundle with helices labeled S1-S4. Surrounding conserved VSD residues such as the countercharges and the S2 phenylalanine, we discover sparse networks of coevolving residues. Additional networks are found lining the VSD lumen, tuning the local hydrophilicity. Notably, state-dependent contacts and the absence of coevolution between S4 and the rest of the bundle are imprints of the activation mechanism on the VSD sequence ensemble. These design principles rationalize existing experimental results and generate testable hypotheses.