Structural plasticity of calmodulin on the surface of CaF2 nanoparticles preserves its biological function†
Nanoparticles are increasingly used in biomedical applications and are especially attractive as biocompatible and biodegradable protein delivery systems. Herein, the interaction between biocompatible 25 nm CaF2 nanoparticles and the ubiquitous calcium sensor calmodulin has been investigated in order to assess the potential of these particles to serve as suitable surface protein carriers. Calmodulin is a multifunctional messenger protein that activates a wide variety of signaling pathways in eukaryotic cells by changing its conformation in a calcium-dependent manner. Isothermal titration calorimetry and circular dichroism studies have shown that the interaction between calmodulin and CaF2 nanoparticles occurs with physiologically relevant affinity and that the binding process is fully reversible, occurring without significant alterations in protein secondary and tertiary structures. Experiments performed with a mutant form of calmodulin having an impaired Ca2+-binding ability in the C-terminal lobe suggest that the EF-hand Ca2+-binding motifs are directly involved in the binding of calmodulin to the CaF2 matrix. The residual capability of nanoparticle-bound calmodulin to function as a calcium sensor protein, binding to and altering the activity of a target protein, was successfully probed by biochemical assays. Even if efficiently carried by CaF2 nanoparticles, calmodulin may dissociate, thus retaining the ability to bind the peptide encompassing the putative C-terminal calmodulin-binding domain of glutamate decarboxylase and activate the enzyme. We conclude that the high flexibility and structural plasticity of calmodulin are responsible for the preservation of its function when bound in high amounts to a nanoparticle surface.