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Biochemistry. 2006 Apr 18;45(15):5067-81.

The intrinsically unstructured domain of PC4 modulates the activity of the structured core through inter- and intramolecular interactions.

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  • 1Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research, Section NMR Spectroscopy, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Proteins frequently contain unstructured regions apart from a functionally important and well-conserved structured domain. Functional and structural aspects for these regions are frequently less clear. The general human positive cofactor 4 (PC4), has such a domain organization and can interact with various DNA substrates, transcriptional activators, and basal transcription factors. While essential for the cofactor function, structural and functional knowledge about these interactions is limited. Using biochemical, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and docking experiments, we show that the carboxy-terminal structured core domain (PC4ctd) is required and sufficient for binding to single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), and the herpes simplex virion protein 16 (VP16) activation domain (VP16ad). We determined the interaction surfaces within PC4 and showed that VP16 and DNA binding are mutually exclusive. Although the amino-terminal domain of PC4 (PC4ntd) alone is devoid of any bioactivity, it increases the interaction with VP16ad. While it decreases the ssDNA-binding and DNA-unwinding activity, it does not influence dsDNA binding. Structural characterization of this domain showed that it is highly flexible and mostly unstructured both in the free form and in the complex. NMR titration experiments using various protein and DNA substrates of the individual domains and the full-length PC4 revealed local conformational or environmental changes in both the structured and unstructured subdomains, which are interpreted to be caused by inter- and intramolecular interactions. We propose that the unstructured PC4ntd regulates the PC4 cofactor function by specific interactions with the activator and through modulation and/or shielding of the interaction surface in the structured core of PC4ctd.

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