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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042473. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Crystal structures of the network-forming short-arm tips of the laminin β1 and γ1 chains.

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Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.


The heterotrimeric laminins are a defining component of basement membranes and essential for tissue formation and function in all animals. The three short arms of the cross-shaped laminin molecule are composed of one chain each and their tips mediate the formation of a polymeric network. The structural basis for laminin polymerisation is unknown. We have determined crystal structures of the short-arm tips of the mouse laminin β1 and γ1 chains, which are grossly similar to the previously determined structure of the corresponding α5 chain region. The short-arm tips consist of a laminin N-terminal (LN) domain that is attached like the head of a flower to a rod-like stem formed by tandem laminin-type epidermal growth factor-like (LE) domains. The LN domain is a β-sandwich with elaborate loop regions that differ between chains. The γ1 LN domain uniquely contains a calcium binding site. The LE domains have little regular structure and are stabilised by cysteines that are disulphide-linked 1-3, 2-4, 5-6 and 7-8 in all chains. The LN surface is not conserved across the α, β and γ chains, but within each chain subfamily there is a striking concentration of conserved residues on one face of the β-sandwich, while the opposite face invariably is shielded by glycans. We propose that the extensive conserved patches on the β and γ LN domains mediate the binding of these two chains to each other, and that the α chain LN domain subsequently binds to the composite β-γ surface. Mutations in the laminin β2 LN domain causing Pierson syndrome are likely to impair the folding of the β2 chain or its ability to form network interactions.

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