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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 26;8(7):e69903. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069903. Print 2013.

Clinically relevant dimer interface mutants of STAT1 transcription factor exhibit differential gene expression.

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Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


A transition from a parallel to an antiparallel dimer configuration of the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) is required for interferon (IFN)-mediated signal transduction. However, the precise molecular mechanisms linking conformational changes to target gene activation by STAT1 are still largely unknown. In the present study, we have characterized, in more detail than before, two disease-associated point mutants with amino acid substitutions at both sites of the dimer interface (F172W and T385A). First, we confirmed that IFNγ-stimulation of transfected cells led to enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of mutant STAT1 as compared to the wild-type protein, which consequently resulted in its prolonged nuclear accumulation. Using an in vitro dephosphorylation assay, we demonstrated that, in contrast to wild-type STAT1 and similar to the F172W mutant, also T385A resisted enzymatic inactivation by the nuclear phosphatase Tc45. Transcriptional activation of IFNγ-driven endogenous target genes differed between wild-type and mutant STAT1. While expression of genes containing a single classical gamma-activated site (GAS), such as irf1, gpb1, and mig1, was virtually unaffected by the presence of either of two amino acid exchanges, induction of the cxcl10 and mcp1 gene was significantly enhanced. The latter two genes both contain an additional TTC/GAA binding motif separated by 10 bp from the palindromic GAS sequence. The transcriptional superiority of the mutants on these genes was reflected by their increased binding affinity to DNA fragments containing the identified "one-and-a-half-GAS" motif. In summary, our data demonstrate that two clinically relevant interface mutants of STAT1 exhibit gene-specific effects and point to the rather complex role of the assumed conformational shift between two different dimer configurations for efficient transcriptional regulation.

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