National Center for
Direct metal recognition by guanine nucleotide-exchange factor in the initial step of the exchange reaction
Acta Crystallogr. D Biol. Crystallogr. (2013) 69 p.345-351
Rab small GTPases regulate vesicle transport in eukaryotes by interacting with various effectors. Guanine nucleotide-exchange factor (GEF) catalyzes the transition from inactive GDP-bound Rab to active GTP-bound Rab. The existence of several GDP-bound intermediates containing the Arabidopsis thaliana Rab5 homologue ARA7 and the GEF VPS9a prior to the formation of a nucleotide-free binary complex has been proposed [Uejima et al. (2010), J. Biol. Chem. 285, 36689-36697]. During this process, VPS9a directly interacts with the beta-phosphate of GDP and the P-loop lysine of ARA7 via a catalytically important aspartate finger, which promotes the release of GDP from ARA7. However, it is unclear how VPS9a removes Mg2+ from ARA7 before forming the GDP-bound ternary complex. Here, the structure of the ARA7-GDP-Ca2+-VPS9a complex is reported, in which the aspartate finger directly coordinates the divalent metal ion. Ca2+ is bound to the canonical Mg2+-binding site, coordinated by the beta-phosphate of GDP and the P-loop serine of ARA7. Unexpectedly, Ca2+ is further coordinated by the aspartate finger and the main chain of VPS9a. This structure may represent the earliest intermediate step in the GEF-catalyzed nucleotide-exchange reaction of ARA7 before the metal-free GDP-bound intermediates are created.