A dynamic hydrophobic core orchestrates allostery in protein kinases

Jonggul Kim, Lalima G. Ahuja, Fa An Chao, Youlin Xia, Christopher L. McClendon, Alexandr P. Kornev, Susan S. Taylor, Gianluigi Veglia

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75 Scopus citations


Eukaryotic protein kinases (EPKs) constitute a class of allosteric switches that mediate a myriad of signaling events. It has been postulated that EPKs’ active and inactive states depend on the structural architecture of their hydrophobic cores, organized around two highly conserved spines: C-spine and R-spine. How the spines orchestrate the transition of the enzyme between catalytically uncommitted and committed states remains elusive. Using relaxation dispersion nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we found that the hydrophobic core of the catalytic subunit of protein kinase A, a prototypical and ubiquitous EPK, moves synchronously to poise the C subunit for catalysis in response to binding adenosine 5?-triphosphate. In addition to completing the C-spine, the adenine ring fuses the b structures of the N-lobe and the C-lobe. Additional residues that bridge the two spines (I150 and V104) are revealed as part of the correlated hydrophobic network; their importance was validated by mutagenesis, which led to inactivation. Because the hydrophobic architecture of the catalytic core is conserved throughout the EPK superfamily, the present study suggests a universal mechanism for dynamically driven allosteric activation of kinases mediated by coordinated signal transmission through ordered motifs in their hydrophobic cores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1600663
JournalScience Advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank A. Cembran (University of Minnesota Duluth) and G. Li for helpful discussions. Funding: This work was supported by the NIH (GM100310 and GM 72701 to G.V. and T32AR007612 to J.K.). NMR experiments were carried out at the Minnesota NMR Center.

Publisher Copyright:
2017 © The Authors.


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