Further improvement of the thermostability of inherently thermostable proteins is an attractive challenge because more thermostable proteins are industrially more useful and serve as better scaffolds for protein engineering. To establish guidelines that can be applied for the rational design of hyperthermostable proteins, we compared the amino acid sequences of two ancestral nucleoside diphosphate kinases, Arc1 and Bac1, reconstructed in our previous study. Although Bac1 is a thermostable protein whose unfolding temperature is around 100°C, Arc1 is much more thermostable with an unfolding temperature of 114°C. However, only 12 out of 139 amino acids are different between the two sequences. In this study, one or a combination of amino acid(s) in Bac1 was/were substituted by a residue(s) found in Arc1 at the same position(s). The best mutant, which contained three amino acid substitutions (S108D, G116A and L120P substitutions), showed an unfolding temperature more than 10°C higher than that of Bac1. Furthermore, a combination of the other nine amino acid substitutions also led to improved thermostability of Bac1, although the effects of individual substitutions were small. Therefore, not only the sum of the contributions of individual amino acids, but also the synergistic effects of multiple amino acids are deeply involved in the stability of a hyperthermostable protein. Such insights will be helpful for future rational design of hyperthermostable proteins.
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