Molecular modeling of amoebapore and NK-lysin: a four-alpha-helix bundle motif of cytolytic peptides from distantly related organisms.
BACKGROUND: Amoebapore of the protozoan Entamoeba histolytica and NK-lysin of porcine cytotoxic lymphocytes are effector peptides from organisms separated extremely early in their evolutionary paths. The peptides intrigued us, however, with indications of some functional similarity. We thus wanted to derive and compare predictions for their as yet unknown three-dimensional structures as a guide for and to be tested by further experiments. RESULTS: Molecular models were generated by use of a genetic algorithm that selects according to basic protein structure principles exploiting available information such as the primary structures, secondary structure predictions and positions of disulfide bonds. Topological differences aside, the structural motif of an antiparallel four-alpha-helix bundle with adjacent connections and intramolecular crosslinks is predicted for both types of peptides. It combines the feature of amphipathic alpha-helices with a disulfide-bonded compact structure known from the beta-sheeted defensins and small toxins. CONCLUSIONS: The models presented here strengthen the notion that amoebapore and NK-lysin are particular among cytolytic and antibacterial polypeptides and share a similar function and structural motif. They also allow experimental testing and a better comparison of the two proteins in view of the predicted similarities and differences of their respective folds.