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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jan 13;281(2):1027-38. Epub 2005 Nov 17.

Thermodynamics of beta-catenin-ligand interactions: the roles of the N- and C-terminal tails in modulating binding affinity.

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Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305-5126, USA.


beta-Catenin is a structural component of adherens junctions, where it binds to the cytoplasmic domain of cadherin cell adhesion molecules. beta-Catenin is also a transcriptional coactivator in the Wnt signaling pathway, where it binds to Tcf/Lef family transcription factors. In the absence of a Wnt signal, nonjunctional beta-catenin is present in a multiprotein complex containing the proteins axin and adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), both of which bind directly to beta-catenin. The thermodynamics of beta-catenin binding to E-cadherin, Lef-1, APC, axin, and the transcriptional inhibitor ICAT have been determined by isothermal titration calorimetry. Most of the interactions showed large, unfavorable entropy changes, consistent with these ligands being natively unstructured in the absence of beta-catenin. Phosphorylation of serine residues present in a sequence motif common to cadherins and APC increased the affinity for beta-catenin 300-700-fold, and surface plasmon resonance measurements revealed that phosphorylation of E-cadherin both enhanced its on rate and decreased its off rate. The effects of the N- and C-terminal "tails" that flank the beta-catenin armadillo repeat domain on ligand binding have also been investigated using constructs lacking one or both tails. Contrary to earlier studies that employed less direct binding assays, the tails did not affect the affinity of beta-catenin for tight ligands such as E-cadherin, Lef-1, and phosphorylated APC. However, the beta-catenin C-terminal tail was found to decrease the affinity for the weaker ligands APC and axin, suggesting that this region may have a regulatory role in beta-catenin degradation.

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