Biosensors for small molecules can be used in applications that range from metabolic engineering to orthogonal control of transcription. Here, we produce biosensors based on a ligand-binding domain (LBD) by using a method that, in principle, can be applied to any target molecule. The LBD is fused to either a fluorescent protein or a transcriptional activator and is destabilized by mutation such that the fusion accumulates only in cells containing the target ligand. We illustrate the power of this method by developing biosensors for digoxin and progesterone. Addition of ligand to yeast, mammalian or plant cells expressing a biosensor activates transcription with a dynamic range of up to ~100-fold. We use the biosensors to improve the biotransformation of pregnenolone to progesterone in yeast and to regulate CRISPR activity in mammalian cells. This work provides a general methodology to develop biosensors for a broad range of molecules in eukaryotes.
- Jeffery W Kelly, Scripps Research Institute, United States
© 2015, Feng et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinases (PKGs) are key mediators of the nitric oxide/cGMP signaling pathway that regulates biological functions as diverse as smooth muscle contraction, cardiac function, and axon guidance. Understanding how cGMP differentially triggers mammalian PKG isoforms could lead to new therapeutics that inhibit or activate PKGs, complementing drugs that target nitric oxide synthases and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases in this signaling axis. Alternate splicing of PRKG1 transcripts confers distinct leucine zippers, linkers, and auto-inhibitory pseudo-substrate sequences to PKG Iα and Iβ that result in isoform-specific activation properties, but the mechanism of enzyme auto-inhibition and its alleviation by cGMP is not well understood. Here we present a crystal structure of PKG Iβ in which the auto-inhibitory sequence and the cyclic nucleotide binding domains are bound to the catalytic domain, providing a snapshot of the auto-inhibited state. Specific contacts between the PKG Iβ auto-inhibitory sequence and the enzyme active site help explain isoform-specific activation constants and the effects of phosphorylation in the linker. We also present a crystal structure of a PKG I cyclic nucleotide binding domain with an activating mutation linked to Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms and Dissections. Similarity of this structure to wild type cGMP-bound domains and differences with the auto-inhibited enzyme provide a mechanistic basis for constitutive activation. We show that PKG Iβ auto-inhibition is mediated by contacts within each monomer of the native full-length dimeric protein, and using the available structural and biochemical data we develop a model for the regulation and cooperative activation of PKGs.
Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) holoenzymes target broad substrates by recognizing short motifs via regulatory subunits. PP2A methylesterase 1 (PME-1) is a cancer-promoting enzyme and undergoes methylesterase activation upon binding to the PP2A core enzyme. Here we showed that PME-1 readily demethylates different families of PP2A holoenzymes and blocks substrate recognition in vitro. The high-resolution cryo-EM structure of a PP2A-B56 holoenzyme-PME-1 complex reveals that PME-1 disordered regions, including a substrate-mimicking motif, tether to the B56 regulatory subunit at remote sites. They occupy the holoenzyme substrate-binding groove and allow large structural shifts in both holoenzyme and PME-1 to enable multi-partite contacts at structured cores to activate the methylesterase. B56-interface mutations selectively block PME-1 activity toward PP2A-B56 holoenzymes and affect the methylation of a fraction of total cellular PP2A. The B56-interface mutations allow us to uncover B56-specific PME-1 functions in p53 signaling. Our studies reveal multiple mechanisms of PME-1 in suppressing holoenzyme functions and versatile PME-1 activities derived from coupling substrate-mimicking motifs to dynamic structured cores.