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J Mol Biol. 2008 Jun 20;379(5):1075-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.04.044. Epub 2008 Apr 25.

Hydrogen-exchange mass spectrometry reveals activation-induced changes in the conformational mobility of p38alpha MAP kinase.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.


Hydrogen-deuterium exchange measurements represent a powerful approach to investigating changes in conformation and conformational mobility in proteins. Here, we examine p38alpha MAP kinase (MAPK) by hydrogen-exchange (HX) mass spectrometry to determine whether changes in conformational mobility may be induced by kinase phosphorylation and activation. Factors influencing sequence coverage in the HX mass spectrometry experiment, which show that varying sampling depths, instruments, and peptide search strategies yield the highest coverage of exchangeable amides, are examined. Patterns of regional deuteration in p38alpha are consistent with tertiary structure and similar to deuteration patterns previously determined for extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 2, indicating that MAPKs are conserved with respect to the extent of local amide HX. Activation of p38alpha alters HX in five regions, which are interpreted by comparing X-ray structures of unphosphorylated p38alpha and X-ray structures of phosphorylated p38gamma. Conformational differences account for altered HX within the activation lip, the P+1 site, and the active site. In contrast, HX alterations are ascribed to activation-induced effects on conformational mobility, within substrate-docking sites (alphaF-alphaG, beta7-beta8), the C-terminal core (alphaE), and the N-terminal core region (beta4-beta5, alphaL16, alphaC). Activation also decreases HX in a 3-10 helix at the C-terminal extension of p38alpha. Although this helix in ERK2 forms a dimerization interface that becomes protected from HX upon activation, analytical ultracentrifugation shows that this does not occur in p38alpha because both unphosphorylated and diphosphorylated forms are monomeric. Finally, HX patterns in monophosphorylated p38alpha are similar to those in unphosphorylated kinase, indicating that the major activation lip remodeling events occur only after diphosphorylation. Importantly, patterns of activation-induced HX show differences between p38alpha and ERK2 despite their similarities in overall deuteration, suggesting that although MAPKs are closely related with respect to primary sequence and tertiary structure, they have distinct mechanisms for dynamic control of enzyme function.

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