Kinase inhibitors allosterically disrupt a regulatory interaction to enhance PKCα membrane translocation

Lisa G Lippert, Ning Ma, Michael Ritt, Abhinandan Jain, Nagarajan Vaidehi, Sivaraj Sivaramakrishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The eukaryotic kinase domain has multiple intrinsically disordered regions whose conformation dictates kinase activity. Small molecule kinase inhibitors (SMKIs) rely on disrupting the active conformations of these disordered regions to inactivate the kinase. While SMKIs are selected for their ability to cause this disruption, the allosteric effects of conformational changes in disordered regions is limited by a lack of dynamic information provided by traditional structural techniques. In this study, we integrated multiscale molecular dynamics simulations with FRET sensors to characterize a novel allosteric mechanism that is selectively triggered by SMKI binding to the protein kinase Cα domain. The indole maleimide inhibitors BimI and sotrastaurin were found to displace the Gly-rich loop (G-loop) that normally shields the ATP-binding site. Displacement of the G-loop interferes with a newly identified, structurally conserved binding pocket for the C1a domain on the N lobe of the kinase domain. This binding pocket, in conjunction with the N-terminal regulatory sequence, masks a diacylglycerol (DAG) binding site on the C1a domain. SMKI-mediated displacement of the G-loop released C1a and exposed the DAG binding site, enhancing protein kinase Cα translocation both to synthetic lipid bilayers and to live cell membranes in the presence of DAG. Inhibitor chemotype determined the extent of the observed allosteric effects on the kinase domain and correlated with the extent of membrane recruitment. Our findings demonstrate the allosteric effects of SMKIs beyond the confines of kinase catalytic conformation and provide an integrated computational-experimental paradigm to investigate parallel mechanisms in other kinases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100339
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
StatePublished - Jan 29 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments—Research in this publication is supported by NIH-R35GM126940 (to S. S.) and NIH-R01GM117923 (to N. V. and S. S.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Inc.. All rights reserved.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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