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Structural characterization of metal binding to a cold-adapted frataxin

Frataxin is an evolutionary conserved protein that participates in iron metabolism. Deficiency of this small protein in humans causes a severe neurodegenerative disease known as Friedreich's ataxia. A number of studies indicate that frataxin binds iron and regulates Fe-S cluster biosynthesis. Previous structural studies showed that metal binding occurs mainly in a region of high density of negative charge. However, a comprehensive characterization of the binding sites is required to gain further insights into the mechanistic details of frataxin function. In this work, we have solved the X-ray crystal structures of a cold-adapted frataxin from a psychrophilic bacterium in the presence of cobalt or europium ions. We have identified a number of metal-binding sites, mainly solvent exposed, several of which had not been observed in previous studies on mesophilic homologues. No major structural changes were detected upon metal binding, although the structures exhibit significant changes in crystallographic B-factors.

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