Computational Reconstruction and Analysis of Structural Models of Avian Cryptochrome 4
The Journal of Physical Chemistry B
A recent study by Xu et al. (Nature, 2021, 594, 535–540) provided strong evidence that cryptochrome 4 (Cry4) is a key protein to endow migratory birds with the magnetic compass sense. The investigation compared the magnetic field response of Cry4 from migratory and nonmigratory bird species and suggested that a difference in magnetic sensitivity could exist. This finding prompted an in-depth investigation into Cry4 protein differences on the structural and dynamic levels. In the present study, the pigeon Cry4 (ClCry4) crystal structure was used to reconstruct the missing avian Cry4 protein structures via homology modeling for carefully selected bird species. The reconstructed Cry4 structure from European robin, Eurasian blackcap, zebra finch, chicken, and pigeon were subsequently simulated dynamically and analyzed. The studied avian Cry4 structures show flexibility in analogous regions pointing to similar activation mechanisms and/or signaling interaction partners. It can be concluded that the experimentally recorded difference in the magnetic field sensitivity of Cry4 from different birds is unlikely to be due to solely intrinsic dynamics of the proteins but requires additional factors that have not yet been identified.

PMID: 35704801