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Nucleic Acids Res. 2006;34(22):6574-86. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Mutations in the MutSalpha interaction interface of MLH1 can abolish DNA mismatch repair.

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  • 1Klinik für Innere Medizin II, Gebäude 41 Kirrberger Strasse, Universität des Saarlandes, D-66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany.


MutLalpha, a heterodimer of MLH1 and PMS2, plays a central role in human DNA mismatch repair. It interacts ATP-dependently with the mismatch detector MutSalpha and assembles and controls further repair enzymes. We tested if the interaction of MutLalpha with DNA-bound MutSalpha is impaired by cancer-associated mutations in MLH1, and identified one mutation (Ala128Pro) which abolished interaction as well as mismatch repair activity. Further examinations revealed three more residues whose mutation interfered with interaction. Homology modelling of MLH1 showed that all residues clustered in a small accessible surface patch, suggesting that the major interaction interface of MutLalpha for MutSalpha is located on the edge of an extensive beta-sheet that backs the MLH1 ATP binding pocket. Bioinformatic analysis confirmed that this patch corresponds to a conserved potential protein-protein interaction interface which is present in both human MLH1 and its E.coli homologue MutL. MutL could be site-specifically crosslinked to MutS from this patch, confirming that the bacterial MutL-MutS complex is established by the corresponding interface in MutL. This is the first study that identifies the conserved major MutLalpha-MutSalpha interaction interface in MLH1 and demonstrates that mutations in this interface can affect interaction and mismatch repair, and thereby can also contribute to cancer development.

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