Apoflavodoxin: structure, stability, and FMN binding
Flavodoxins are one domain alpha/beta electron transfer proteins that participate in photosynthetic reactions. All flavodoxins carry a molecule of flavin mononucleotide (FMN), non-covalently bound, that confers redox properties to the protein. There are two structurally distinct flavodoxins, short ones and long flavodoxins; the latter contain an extra loop with unknown function. We have undertaken the study of the stability and folding of the apoflavodoxin from Anabaena (a long flavodoxin) and the analysis of the interaction between the apoflavodoxin and FMN. Our studies indicate that apoflavodoxin folds in a few seconds to a form that is competent in FMN binding. The stability of this apoflavodoxin is low and its urea denaturation can be described by a two-state mechanism. The role of the different parts of the apoflavodoxin in the stability and structure of the whole protein is being investigated using mutagenesis and specific cleavage to generate apoflavodoxin fragments. The X-ray structure of apoflavodoxin is very similar to that of its complex with FMN, the main difference being the conformation of the two aromatic residues that sandwich FMN in the complex. In apoflavodoxin these groups interact with each other so closing the FMN binding site. Despite this fact, apoflavodoxin binds FMN tightly and rapidly, and the resulting holoflavodoxin displays a high conformational stability. We have found that one role of the aromatic residues that interact with FMN is to help to retain bound the reduced form of the cofactor whose complex with apoflavodoxin is otherwise too weak.