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α-Spectrin SH3-domain (Spc-SH3) crystallization is characterized by very fast growth of the crystals in the presence of ammonium sulfate as a precipitant agent. The origin of this behaviour can be attributed to the presence of a proline residue that participates in a crystal contact mimicking the binding of proline-rich sequences to SH3 domains. This residue, Pro20, is located in the RT loop and is the main contact in one of the interfaces present in the orthorhombic Spc-SH3 crystal structures. In order to understand the molecular interactions that are responsible for the very fast crystal growth of the wild-type (WT) Spc-SH3 crystals, the crystal structure of a triple mutant in which the residues Ser19-Pro20-Arg21 in the RT loop have been replaced by Gly19-Asp20-Ser21 (GDS Spc-SH3 mutant) has been solved. The removal of the critical proline residue results in slower nucleation of the Spc-SH3 crystals and a different arrangement of the protein molecules in the unit cell, leading to a crystal that belongs to the tetragonal space group P41212, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 42.231, c = 93.655 Å, and that diffracts to 1.45 Å resolution. For both WT Spc-SH3 and the GDS mutant, light-scattering experiments showed that a dimer was formed in solution within a few minutes of the addition of 2 M ammonium sulfate at pH 6.5 and allowed the proposal of a mechanism for the nucleation and crystal growth of Spc-SH3 in which the Pro20 residue plays a key role in the rate of crystal growth.

Supporting information

PDB reference: GDS mutant α-spectrin SH3 domain, 3i9q, r3i9qsf

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