Sequence comparisons of intermediate filament chains: evidence of a unique functional/structural role for coiled-coil segment 1A and linker L1.J Struct Biol. 2002 Jan-Feb; 137(1-2):128-45.JS
A comprehensive analysis of the sequences of all types of intermediate filament chains has been undertaken with a particular emphasis on those of segment 1A and linker L1. This has been done to assess whether structural characteristics can be recognized in the sequences that would be consistent with the role of each region in the recently proposed "swinging head" hypothesis. The analyses show that linker L1 is the most flexible rod domain region, that it is the most elongated structure (on a per residue basis), and that it is the most variable region as regards sequence and length. Segment 1A has one of the two most highly conserved regions of sequence in the rod domain (the other being at the end of segment 2B), with seven particular residues conserved across all chain types. It also contains one of the very few potential interchain ionic interactions that could be conserved across all chain types. However, the aggregation of chains in segment 1A is specified less precisely overall by interchain ionic interactions than are the other coiled-coil segments. The apolar residue contents in positions a and d of the heptad substructure are the highest of any coiled-coil segment in the intermediate filament family. Segment 1A also displays an amino acid composition atypical of not only coiled-coil segments 1B and 2B, but indeed of two-stranded coiled coils in general. Nonetheless, molecular modeling based on the crystal structure of the monomeric 1A fragment from human vimentin shows that coiled-coil formation is plausible. The most extensive regions of apolar/aromatic residues lie at the C-terminal end of segment 2B in the helix termination motif and in segment 1A in and close to the helix initiation motif. The predicted stability of the individual alpha-helices in segment 1A is greater than in those comprising segments 1B and 2B, though potential intrachain ionic interactions are either lacking or are minimal in number. Analysis of the 1A sequence and those regions immediately N- and C-terminal to it has shown that the capping residues are near optimal close to the previously predicted ends, thus adding to the likely stability of the alpha-helical structure. However, a second terminating sequence is predicted in 1A (about 10 residues back from the C-terminus). This allows the possibility of some unwinding of the alpha-helical structure of 1A immediately adjacent to linker L1 when the head domains no longer stabilize the coiled-coil structure. All of these data are consistent with the concept of a flexible hinge at L1 and with the ability of the two alpha-helical coiled-coil strands to separate under appropriate conditions and partly unwind at their C-terminal ends to allow the head domains a greater degree of mobility, thus facilitating function.