On the ion selectivity in Ca-binding proteins: The cyclo(-L-Pro-Gly-)3 peptide as a model
Calcium plays a crucial role in many cellular processes. Its functions are directly dependent on the high specificity for Ca2+ exhibited by the proteins and ion carriers that bind divalent ions. To elucidate the basis for this specificity we have calculated the relative energies of solvation of calcium and magnesium ions in complexes with cyclo(-L-Pro-Gly-)3, a small synthetic peptide that binds Ca2+ with an affinity comparable to those of the naturally occurring proteins. The results show that the ion selectivity of the peptide resides in the difference in the solvation energies of the competing ions in water. Although the peptide is able to complex Mg2+ better than Ca2+ in the stoichiometries in which cyclo(-L-Pro-Gly-)3 binds divalent ions, it is not always able to provide as much stabilization for Mg2+ as water does. These results also explain why cyclo(-L-Pro-Gly-)3 binds Ca2+ and Mg2+ with different stoichiometries and indicate the source for expected differences in the structures of complexes of the two ions.