Mutational Study of the Tryptophan Tetrad Important for Electron Transfer in European Robin Cryptochrome 4a
Anders Frederiksen, Corinna Langebrake, Maja Hanić, Georg Manthey, Henrik Mouritsen, Miriam Liedvogel, Ilia A. Solov'yov
ACS Omega
The ability of migratory birds to sense magnetic fields has beenknown for decades, although the understanding of the underlying mechanism is still elusive. Currently, the strongest magnetoreceptor candidate in birds is a protein called cryptochrome 4a. The cryptochrome 4a protein has changed through evolution, apparently endowing some birds with a more pronounced magnetic sensitivity than others. Using phylogenetic tools, we show that a specific tryptophan tetrad and a tyrosine residue predicted to be essential for cryptochrome activation are highly conserved in the avian clade. Through state-of-the-art molecular dynamics simulations and associated analyses, we also studied the role of these specific residues and the associated mutants on the overall dynamics of the protein. The analyses of the single residue mutations were used to judge how far a local change in the protein structure can impact specific dynamics of European robin cryptochrome 4a. We conclude that the replacements of each of the tryptophans one by one with a phenylalanine do not compromise the overall stability of the protein.