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PLoS One. 2016 Mar 18;11(3):e0151412. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151412. eCollection 2016.

Monitoring Solution Structures of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor β/δ upon Ligand Binding.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioanalytics, Institute of Pharmacy, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, D-06120, Halle/Saale, Germany.


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) have been intensively studied as drug targets to treat type 2 diabetes, lipid disorders, and metabolic syndrome. This study is part of our ongoing efforts to map conformational changes in PPARs in solution by a combination of chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry (MS). To our best knowledge, we performed the first studies addressing solution structures of full-length PPAR-β/δ. We monitored the conformations of the ligand-binding domain (LBD) as well as full-length PPAR-β/δ upon binding of two agonists. (Photo-) cross-linking relied on (i) a variety of externally introduced amine- and carboxyl-reactive linkers and (ii) the incorporation of the photo-reactive amino acid p-benzoylphenylalanine (Bpa) into PPAR-β/δ by genetic engineering. The distances derived from cross-linking experiments allowed us to monitor conformational changes in PPAR-β/δ upon ligand binding. The cross-linking/MS approach proved highly advantageous to study nuclear receptors, such as PPARs, and revealed the interplay between DBD (DNA-binding domain) and LDB in PPAR-β/δ. Our results indicate the stabilization of a specific conformation through ligand binding in PPAR-β/δ LBD as well as full-length PPAR-β/δ. Moreover, our results suggest a close distance between the N- and C-terminal regions of full-length PPAR-β/δ in the presence of GW1516. Chemical cross-linking/MS allowed us gaining detailed insights into conformational changes that are induced in PPARs when activating ligands are present. Thus, cross-linking/MS should be added to the arsenal of structural methods available for studying nuclear receptors.

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