The ability of macromolecules to transduce stimulus information at one site into conformational changes at a distant site, termed “allostery,” is vital for cellular signaling. Here, we propose a link between the sensitivity of allosteric macromolecules to their underlying biophysical parameters, the interrelationships between these parameters, and macromolecular adaptability. We demonstrate that the parameters of a canonical model of the mSlo large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) ion channel are non-identifiable with respect to the equilibrium open probability-voltage relationship, a common functional assay. We construct a reduced model with emergent parameters that are identifiable and expressed as combinations of the original mechanistic parameters. These emergent parameters indicate which coordinated changes in mechanistic parameters can leave assay output unchanged. We predict that these coordinated changes are used by allosteric macromolecules to adapt, and we demonstrate how this prediction can be tested experimentally. We show that these predicted parameter compensations are used in the first reported allosteric phenomena: the Bohr effect, by which hemoglobin adapts to varying pH.
- Submitted: 28 December 2016
- Revision received 15 February 2017
- Accepted: 8 March 2017
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