Engineering of the Ultra-stable Cystine Knot Framework of Microproteins Design, Chemical Synthesis and Structural Studies

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Ultra-stable cystine knotted microproteins, in which two disulfides and their connecting backbones form a circle that is penetrated by the third disulfide bonds, have attracted high interest due to their resistance to degradation in vitro and potential for the development of peptide drugs. This thesis gives new insights into engineering of that framework of microproteins, including approaches to their chemical synthesis, backbone engineering, structural and biological evaluations.Synthetic and oxidative folding approaches for bracelet cyclotides, a family of cyclic cystine knotted microproteins, was developed using a model peptide, cycloviolacin O2. Following assembly of the peptide chain, protected peptide was generated by mild cleavage that was subsequently thioesterified and cyclized in solution. The cyclic peptide was oxidatively folded under optimized conditions containing co-solvent and non-ionic detergent affording native cycloviolacin O2 as a major product. To gain further insights into the heterogeneity, efficiency and kinetics of cyclotides’ oxidative folding, the intermediates that accumulate in oxidative refolding pathways of all cyclotide subfamilies: Möbius, bracelet and the hybrid cyclotides were quantitatively determined under four different folding conditions. The results were used for defining major folding pathways, which indicated that Möbius cyclotides might accumulate heterogeneous folding intermediates with one-, two- and three-disulfides, whereas bracelet tend to accumulate a homogenous intermediate with three-disulfides, depending on the buffer systems used.Furthermore, to probe the internal factors contributing to inefficiency of oxidative folding, as well as undesired bioactivities of bracelet cyclotides (e.g., cytotoxic activity), polymer-hybridized cyclotides were designed by replacing non-conserved residues with small isosteric polymers. The designed hybrid analogs in which hybridization involved replacement of loop 3 with isosteric polymers showed improved synthetic and oxidative folding properties. The cytoxicity of a model hybrid designed with replacement of loop 3 and 5 exhibited no cytotoxic activity at concentration of 128-fold relative to that of native peptide. Furthermore, 1D and 2D 1H NMR analysis of this hybrid showed that it had well structured fold.