The strong interaction between avidin and biotin is so tight (dissociation constant 10-15M) that conditions usually sufficient for protein denaturing fail to dislodge biotin from the avidin—biotin complex. This kind of irreversible binding hinders the use of avidin in applications such as affinity purification or protein immobilization. To address this concern, we have constructed a series of mutants of the strategically positioned Tyr-33 in order to study the role of this residue in biotin binding, and to create avidin variants with more reversible ligand-binding properties. Unexpectedly, an avidin mutant in which Tyr-33 was replaced with phenylalanine (Avm-Y33F) displayed similar biotin-binding characteristics to the native avidin, indicating that the hydrogen bond formed between the hydroxy group of Tyr-33 and the carbonyl oxygen of biotin is not as important for the tight binding of biotin as previously suggested. In terms of the reversibility of biotin binding, Avm-Y33H was the most successful substitution constructed in this study. Interestingly, the binding of this mutant exhibited clear pH-dependence, since at neutral pH it bound to the biotin surface in an irreversible fashion, whereas, at pH9, 50% of the bound protein could be released with free biotin. Furthermore, although Tyr-33 is located relatively distant from the monomer—monomer interfaces, the mutagenesis of this residue also weakened the quaternary structure of avidin, indicating that the high ligand binding and the high stability of avidin have evolved together and it is difficult to modify one without affecting the other.

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