The growth temperature adaptation of six model proteins has been studied in 42 microorganisms belonging to eubacterial and archaeal kingdoms, covering optimum growth temperatures from 7 to 103 degrees C. The selected proteins include three elongation factors involved in translation, the enzymes glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and superoxide dismutase, the cell division protein FtsZ. The common strategy of protein adaptation from cold to hot environments implies the occurrence of small changes in the amino acid composition, without altering the overall structure of the macromolecule. These continuous adjustments were investigated through parameters related to the amino acid composition of each protein. The average value per residue of mass, volume and accessible surface area allowed an evaluation of the usage of bulky residues, whereas the average hydrophobicity reflected that of hydrophobic residues. The specific proportion of bulky and hydrophobic residues in each protein almost linearly increased with the temperature of the host microorganism. This finding agrees with the structural and functional properties exhibited by proteins in differently adapted sources, thus explaining the great compactness or the high flexibility exhibited by (hyper)thermophilic or psychrophilic proteins, respectively. Indeed, heat-adapted proteins incline toward the usage of heavier-size and more hydrophobic residues with respect to mesophiles, whereas the cold-adapted macromolecules show the opposite behavior with a certain preference for smaller-size and less hydrophobic residues. An investigation on the different increase of bulky residues along with the growth temperature observed in the six model proteins suggests the relevance of the possible different role and/or structure organization played by protein domains. The significance of the linear correlations between growth temperature and parameters related to the amino acid composition improved when the analysis was collectively carried out on all model proteins.
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