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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 9;8(4):e60887. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060887. Print 2013.

Structural plasticity in human heterochromatin protein 1β.

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Department for NMR-Based Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany.


As essential components of the molecular machine assembling heterochromatin in eukaryotes, HP1 (Heterochromatin Protein 1) proteins are key regulators of genome function. While several high-resolution structures of the two globular regions of HP1, chromo and chromoshadow domains, in their free form or in complex with recognition-motif peptides are available, less is known about the conformational behavior of the full-length protein. Here, we used NMR spectroscopy in combination with small angle X-ray scattering and dynamic light scattering to characterize the dynamic and structural properties of full-length human HP1β (hHP1β) in solution. We show that the hinge region is highly flexible and enables a largely unrestricted spatial search by the two globular domains for their binding partners. In addition, the binding pockets within the chromo and chromoshadow domains experience internal dynamics that can be useful for the versatile recognition of different binding partners. In particular, we provide evidence for the presence of a distinct structural propensity in free hHP1β that prepares a binding-competent interface for the formation of the intermolecular β-sheet with methylated histone H3. The structural plasticity of hHP1β supports its ability to bind and connect a wide variety of binding partners in epigenetic processes.

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