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J Mol Model. 2014 Aug;20(8):2357. doi: 10.1007/s00894-014-2357-7. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

Evidence supporting the existence of a NUPR1-like family of helix-loop-helix chromatin proteins related to, yet distinct from, AT hook-containing HMG proteins.

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Laboratory of Epigenetics and Chromatin Dynamics, Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biophysics, and Medicine, Epigenomics Translational Program, Center for Individualized Medicine., Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Guggenheim 10, Rochester, MN, 55905, USA,


NUPR1, a small chromatin protein, plays a critical role in cancer development, progression, and resistance to therapy. Here, using a combination of structural bioinformatics and molecular modeling methods, we report several novel findings that enhance our understanding of the biochemical function of this protein. We find that NUPR1 has been conserved throughout evolution, and over time it has undergone duplications and transpositions to form other transcriptional regulators. Using threading, homology-based molecular modeling, molecular mechanics calculations, and molecular dynamics simulations, we generated structural models for four of these proteins: NUPR1a, NUPR1b, NUPR2, and the NUPR-like domain of GTF2-I. Comparative analyses of these models combined with extensive linear motif identification reveal that these four proteins, though similar in their propensities for folding, differ in size, surface changes, and sites amenable for posttranslational modification. Lastly, taking NUPR1a as the paradigm for this family, we built models of a NUPR-DNA complex. Additional structural comparisons revealed that NUPR1 defines a new family of small-groove-binding proteins that share structural features with, yet are distinct from, helix-loop-helix AT-hook-containing HMG proteins. These models and inferences should lead to a better understanding of the function of this group of chromatin proteins, which play a critical role in the development of human malignant diseases.

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