alpha 1-Antitrypsin is the best-characterized member of the serpin (serine-proteinase inhibitor) superfamily. Its solution structure was studied by high-flux neutron-scattering and synchrotron X-ray-scattering. Neutron data show that its absorption coefficient A1% 280,1cm is 5.4. The neutron radius of gyration RG at infinite contrast for native alpha 1-antitrypsin is 2.61 nm, characteristic of a moderately elongated structure, and its cross-sectional RG is 1.34 nm. The internal inhomogeneity of scattering densities within alpha 1-antitrypsin is high at 29 x 10(-5). The X-ray RG is 2.91 nm, in good agreement with the neutron RG of 2.82 nm in 1H2O. This RG is unchanged in reactive-centre-cleaved alpha 1-antitrypsin. These parameters are also unchanged at pH 8 in sodium/potassium phosphate buffers up to 0.6 M. The neutron and X-ray curves for native alpha 1-antitrypsin were compared with Debye simulation based on the crystal structure of reactive-centre-cleaved (papain) alpha 1-antitrypsin. After allowance for residues not visible in the crystallographic electron-density map, and rejoining the proteolysed site between Met-358 and Ser-359 by means of a relatively minor conformational re-arrangement, good agreement to a structural resolution of 4 nm is obtained with the neutron data in two contrasts and with the X-ray data. The structures of the native and cleaved forms of alpha 1-antitrypsin are thus similar within the resolution of solution scattering. This places an upper limit on the magnitude of the presumed conformational changes that occur in alpha 1-antitrypsin on reactive-centre cleavage, as indicated in earlier spectroscopic investigations of the Met-358-Ser-359 peptide-bond cleavage. Methods for scattering-curve simulations from crystal structures are critically assessed. The RG data lead to dimensions of 7.8 nm x 4.9 nm x 2.2 nm for native alpha 1-antitrypsin. The high internal inhomogeneity and the asymmetric shorter semi-axes of 4.9 nm and 2.2 nm suggest that the three oligosaccharide chains of alpha 1-antitrypsin are essentially freely extended into solvent in physiological conditions. This conclusion is also supported by the Debye simulations, and by modelling based on hydrodynamic parameters.
Structural comparisons of the native and reactive-centre-cleaved forms of α1-antitrypsin by neutron- and X-ray-scattering in solution
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K F Smith, R A Harrison, S J Perkins; Structural comparisons of the native and reactive-centre-cleaved forms of α1-antitrypsin by neutron- and X-ray-scattering in solution. Biochem J 1 April 1990; 267 (1): 203–212. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/bj2670203
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