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Gaussia luciferase (GLuc) is a small luciferase (18.2 kDa; 168 residues) and is thus attracting much attention as a reporter protein, but the lack of structural information is hampering further application. Here, we report the first solution structure of a fully active, recombinant GLuc determined by heteronuclear multidimensional NMR. We obtained a natively folded GLuc by bacterial expression and efficient refolding using a Solubility Enhancement Petide (SEP) tag. Almost perfect assignments of GLuc's 1H, 13C and 15N backbone signals were obtained. GLuc structure was determined using CYANA, which automatically identified over 2500 NOEs of which > 570 were long-range. GLuc is an all-alpha-helix protein made of nine helices. The region spanning residues 10-18, 36-81, 96-145 and containing eight out of the nine helices was determined with a Cα-atom RMSD of 1.39 Å ± 0.39 Å. The structure of GLuc is novel and unique. Two homologous sequential repeats form two anti-parallel bundles made by 4 helices and tied together by three disulfide bonds. The N-terminal helix 1 is grabbed by these 4 helices. Further, we found a hydrophobic cavity where several residues responsible for bioluminescence were identified in previous mutational studies, and we thus hypothesize that this is a catalytic cavity, where the hydrophobic coelenterazine binds and the bioluminescence reaction takes place.


Nan Wu, Naohiro Kobayashi, Kengo Tsuda, Satoru Unzai, Tomonori Saotome, Yutaka Kuroda, Toshio Yamazaki. Solution structure of Gaussia Luciferase with five disulfide bonds and identification of a putative coelenterazine binding cavity by heteronuclear NMR. Scientific reports. 2020 Nov 18;10(1):20069

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PMID: 33208800

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