We have carried out a detailed analysis of tropomyosin structure using lysines as specific probes for the protein surface in regions of the molecule that have not been investigated by other methods. We have measured the relative reactivities of lysines in rabbit skeletal muscle α,α-tropomyosin with acetic anhydride using a competitive labeling procedure. We have identified 37 of 39 lysines and find that they range 20-fold in reactivity. The observed reactivities are related to the coiled-coil model of the tropomyosin molecule [Crick, F. H. C. (1953) Acta Crystallogr. 6, 689-697; McLachlan, A. D., Stewart, M., & Smillie, L. B. (1975) J. Mol. Biol. 98, 281-291] and other available chemical and physical information about the structure. In most cases, the observed lysine reactivities can be explained by allowable interactions with neighboring amino acid side chains on the same or facing α-helix. However, we found no correlation between reactivity and helical position of a given lysine. For example, lysines in the outer helical positions included lysines of low as well as high reactivity, indicating that they vary widely in their accessibility to solvent and that the coiled coil is heterogeneous along its length. Furthermore, the middle of the molecule (residues 126-182) that is susceptible to proteolysis and known to be the least stable region of the protein also contains some of the least and most reactive lysines. We have discussed the implications of our results on our understanding the structures of tropomyosin and other coiled-coil proteins as well as globular proteins containing helical regions.
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