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J Mol Biol. 2012 Dec 14;424(5):313-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2012.10.003. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

Members of the DAN family are BMP antagonists that form highly stable noncovalent dimers.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati Medical Sciences Building, Cincinnati, OH 45267, USA.


Signaling of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) ligands is antagonized by a number of extracellular proteins, including noggin, follistatin and members of the DAN (differential screening selected gene abberative in neuroblastoma) family. Structural studies on the DAN family member sclerostin (a weak BMP antagonist) have previously revealed that the protein is monomeric and consists of an eight-membered cystine knot motif with a fold similar to transforming growth factor-β ligands. In contrast to sclerostin, certain DAN family antagonists, including protein related to DAN and cerberus (PRDC), have an unpaired cysteine that is thought to function in covalent dimer assembly (analogous to transforming growth factor-β ligands). Through a combination of biophysical and biochemical studies, we determined that PRDC forms biologically active dimers that potently inhibit BMP ligands. Furthermore, we showed that PRDC dimers, surprisingly, are not covalently linked, as mutation of the unpaired cysteine does not inhibit dimer formation or biological activity. We further demonstrated that the noncovalent PRDC dimers are highly stable under both denaturing and reducing conditions. This study was extended to the founding family member DAN, which also forms noncovalent dimers that are highly stable. These results demonstrate that certain DAN family members can form both monomers and noncovalent dimers, implying that biological activity of DAN family members might be linked to their oligomeric state.

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