Electronic Circular Dichroism Detects Conformational Changes Associated with Proteasome Gating Confirmed Using AFM Imaging

Alessandro D’Urso, Roberto Purrello, Alessandra Cunsolo, Danilo Milardi, Caterina Fattorusso, Marco Persico, Maria Gaczynska, Pawel A. Osmulski, Anna Maria Santoro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many chronic diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration, are linked to proteasome dysregulation. Proteasome activity, essential for maintaining proteostasis in a cell, is controlled by the gating mechanism and its underlying conformational transitions. Thus, developing effective methods to detect gate-related specific proteasome conformations could be a significant contribution to rational drug design. Since the structural analysis suggests that gate opening is associated with a decrease in the content of α-helices and β-sheets and an increase in random coil structures, we decided to explore the application of electronic circular dichroism (ECD) in the UV region to monitor the proteasome gating. A comparison of ECD spectra of wild type yeast 20S proteasome (predominantly closed) and an open-gate mutant (α3ΔN) revealed an increased intensity in the ECD band at 220 nm, which suggests increased contents of random coil and β-turn structures. This observation was further supported by evaluating ECD spectra of human 20S treated with low concentration of SDS, known as a gate-opening reagent. Next, to evaluate the power of ECD to probe a ligand-induced gate status, we treated the proteasome with H2T4, a tetracationic porphyrin that we showed previously to induce large-scale protein conformational changes upon binding to h20S. H2T4 caused a significant increase in the ECD band at 220 nm, interpreted as an induced opening of the 20S gate. In parallel, we imaged the gate-harboring alpha ring of the 20S with AFM, a technique that we used previously to visualize the predominantly closed gate in latent human or yeast 20S and the open gate in α3ΔN mutant. The results were convergent with the ECD data and showed a marked decrease in the content of closed-gate conformation in the H2T4-treated h20S. Our findings provide compelling support for the use of ECD measurements to conveniently monitor proteasome conformational changes related to gating phenomena. We predict that the observed association of spectroscopic and structural results will help with efficient design and characterization of exogenous proteasome regulators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number704
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • (AFM) atomic force microscopy imaging
  • 20S proteasome
  • allostery
  • cationic porphyrins
  • electronic circular dichroism (ECD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry


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