Calculating metalation in cells reveals CobW acquires CoII for vitamin B12 biosynthesis while related proteins prefer ZnII

Tessa R. Young, Maria Alessandra Martini, Andrew W. Foster, Arthur Glasfeld, Deenah Osman, Richard J. Morton, Evelyne Deery, Martin J. Warren, Nigel J. Robinson

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Protein metal-occupancy (metalation) in vivo has been elusive. To address this challenge, the available free energies of metals have recently been determined from the responses of metal sensors. Here, we use these free energy values to develop a metalation-calculator which accounts for inter-metal competition and changing metal-availabilities inside cells. We use the calculator to understand the function and mechanism of GTPase CobW, a predicted CoII-chaperone for vitamin B12. Upon binding nucleotide (GTP) and MgII, CobW assembles a high-affinity site that can obtain CoII or ZnII from the intracellular milieu. In idealised cells with sensors at the mid-points of their responses, competition within the cytosol enables CoII to outcompete ZnII for binding CobW. Thus, CoII is the cognate metal. However, after growth in different [CoII], CoII-occupancy ranges from 10 to 97% which matches CobW-dependent B12 synthesis. The calculator also reveals that related GTPases with comparable ZnII affinities to CobW, preferentially acquire ZnII due to their relatively weaker CoII affinities. The calculator is made available here for use with other proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1195
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021

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