Bacterial ice nucleation proteins (INPs) can cause frost damage to plants by nucleating ice formation at high sub-zero temperatures. Modeling of Pseudomonas borealis INP by AlphaFold suggests that the central domain of 65 tandem sixteen-residue repeats forms a beta-solenoid with arrays of outward-pointing threonines and tyrosines, which may organize water molecules into an ice-like pattern. Here we report that mutating some of these residues in a central segment of P. borealis INP, expressed in Escherichia coli, decreases ice nucleation activity more than the section’s deletion. Insertion of a bulky domain has the same effect, indicating that the continuity of the water-organizing repeats is critical for optimal activity. The ~10 C-terminal coils differ from the other 55 coils in being more basic and lacking water-organizing motifs; deletion of this region eliminates INP activity. We show through sequence modifications how arrays of conserved motifs form the large ice-nucleating surface required for potency.
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