Abstract

The concept of an electrostatic motif on the surface of biological macromolecules as a definite topographical pattern of electrostatic potentials in three-dimensional space, provides a powerful tool for identification of functionally important regions on the surface of structurally related macromolecules. Using this approach, we identify a functional region common to cholinesterases (ChEs) and to a set of neural cell-adhesion proteins that have been suggested to be structurally related to cholinesterases due to their high sequence similarity, but lacking the key catalytically active serine. Quantitative analysis of the electrostatic surface potential in the area surrounding the entrance to the active site of acetylcholinesterase, and in the analogous zone for the ChE-like domain of the adhesion proteins reveals very good correlation. These findings, examined in the context of previous evidence involving this same region in a possible cell-recognition function for ChEs, leads us to define a class of adhesion proteins which we have named 'electrotactins'.