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J Mol Biol. 2008 May 30;379(2):251-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.03.050. Epub 2008 Apr 3.

Contribution of Ser386 and Ser396 to activation of interferon regulatory factor 3.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 364 Plantation Street, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


IRF-3, a member of the interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family of transcription factors, functions in innate immune defense against viral infection. Upon infection, host cell IRF-3 is activated by phosphorylation at its seven C-terminal Ser/Thr residues: (385)SSLENTVDLHISNSHPLSLTS(405). This phosphoactivation triggers IRF-3 to react with the coactivators, CREB-binding protein (CBP)/p300, to form a complex that activates target genes in the nucleus. However, the role of each phosphorylation site for IRF-3 phosphoactivation remains unresolved. To address this issue, all seven Ser/Thr potential phosphorylation sites were screened by mutational studies, size-exclusion chromatography, and isothermal titration calorimetry. Using purified proteins, we show that CBP (amino acid residues 2067-2112) interacts directly with IRF-3 (173-427) and six of its single-site mutants to form heterodimers, but when CBP interacts with IRF-3 S396D, oligomerization is evident. CBP also interacts in vitro with IRF-3 double-site mutants to form different levels of oligomerization. Among all the single-site mutants, IRF-3 S396D showed the strongest binding to CBP. Although IRF-3 S386D alone did not interact as strongly with CBP as did other mutants, it strengthened the interaction and oligomerization of IRF-3 S396D with CBP. In contrast, IRF-3 S385D weakened the interaction and oligomerization of IRF-3 S396D and S386/396D with CBP. Thus, it appears that Ser385 and Ser386 serve antagonistic functions in regulating IRF-3 phosphoactivation. These results indicate that Ser386 and Ser396 are critical for IRF-3 activation, and support a phosphorylation-oligomerization model for IRF-3 activation.

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