Titin is a giant elastic protein responsible for passive force generated by the stretched striated-muscle sarcomere. Passive force develops in titin's extensible region which consists of the PEVK segment in series with tandemly arranged immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domains. Here we studied the mechanics of tandem Ig segments from the differentially spliced (I65-70) and constitutive (I91-98) regions by using an atomic force microscope specialized for stretching single molecules. The mechanical stability of I65-70 domains was found to be different from that of I91-98 domains. In the range of stretch rates studied (0.05-1.00 μm/s) lower average domain unfolding forces for I65-70 were associated with a weaker stretch-rate dependence of the unfolding force, suggesting that the differences in the mechanical stabilities of the segments derive from differences in the zero force unfolding rate (Ku0) and the characteristic distance (location of the barrier) along the unfolding reaction coordinate (ΔXu). No effect of calcium was found on unfolding forces and persistence length of unfolded domains. To explore the structural basis of the differences in mechanical stabilities of the two fragment types, we compared the amino acid sequence of I65-70 domains with that of I91-98 domains and by using homology modeling analyzed how sequence variations may affect folding free energies. Simulations suggest that differences in domain stability are unlikely to be caused by variation in the number of hydrogen bonds between the force-bearing β-strands at the domain's N- and C-termini. Rather, they may be due to differences in hydrophobic contacts and strand orientations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Structural Biology