A polyubiquitin comprises multiple covalently linked ubiquitins and recognizes myriad targets. Free or bound to ligands, a polyubiquitin is found in different arrangements of ubiquitin subunits. To understand the structural basis for polyubiquitin quaternary plasticity and to explore the target recognition mechanism, we characterize the conformational space of Lys63-linked diubiquitin (K63-Ub2). Refining against inter-subunit paramagnetic NMR data, we show that free K63-Ub2 exists as a dynamic ensemble comprising multiple closed and open quaternary states. The quaternary dynamics enables K63-Ub2 to be specifically recognized in a variety of signaling pathways. When binding to a target protein, one of the preexisting quaternary states is selected and stabilized. A point mutation that shifts the equilibrium between the different states modulates the binding affinities towards K63-Ub2 ligands. This conformational selection mechanism at quaternary level may be used by polyubiquitins of different lengths and linkages for target recognition.
- Volker Dötsch, Goethe University, Germany
© 2015, Liu et al.
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Ferroportin (Fpn) is a transporter that releases ferrous ion (Fe2+) from cells and is important for homeostasis of iron in circulation. Export of one Fe2+ by Fpn is coupled to import of two H+ to maintain charge balance. Here, we show that human Fpn (HsFpn) binds to and mediates Ca2+ transport. We determine the structure of Ca2+-bound HsFpn and identify a single Ca2+ binding site distinct from the Fe2+ binding sites. Further studies validate the Ca2+ binding site and show that Ca2+ transport is not coupled to transport of another ion. In addition, Ca2+ transport is significantly inhibited in the presence of Fe2+ but not vice versa. Function of Fpn as a Ca2+ uniporter may allow regulation of iron homeostasis by Ca2+.
The design of compounds that can discriminate between closely related target proteins remains a central challenge in drug discovery. Specific therapeutics targeting the highly conserved myosin motor family are urgently needed as mutations in at least 6 of its members cause numerous diseases. Allosteric modulators, like the myosin-II inhibitor blebbistatin, are a promising means to achieve specificity. However, it remains unclear why blebbistatin inhibits myosin-II motors with different potencies given that it binds at a highly conserved pocket that is always closed in blebbistatin-free experimental structures. We hypothesized that the probability of pocket opening is an important determinant of the potency of compounds like blebbistatin. To test this hypothesis, we used Markov state models (MSMs) built from over 2 milliseconds of aggregate molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent. We find that blebbistatin’s binding pocket readily opens in simulations of blebbistatin-sensitive myosin isoforms. Comparing these conformational ensembles reveals that the probability of pocket opening correctly identifies which isoforms are most sensitive to blebbistatin inhibition and that docking against MSMs quantitatively predicts blebbistatin binding affinities (R2=0.82). In a blind prediction for an isoform (Myh7b) whose blebbistatin sensitivity was unknown, we find good agreement between predicted and measured IC50s (0.67 mM vs. 0.36 mM). Therefore, we expect this framework to be useful for the development of novel specific drugs across numerous protein targets.