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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 4;115(36):8960-8965. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1806202115. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

Conservation of coactivator engagement mechanism enables small-molecule allosteric modulators.

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Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
Program in Chemical Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
Department of Biophysics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158.
Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;


Transcriptional coactivators are a molecular recognition marvel because a single domain within these proteins, the activator binding domain or ABD, interacts with multiple compositionally diverse transcriptional activators. Also remarkable is the structural diversity among ABDs, which range from conformationally dynamic helical motifs to those with a stable core such as a β-barrel. A significant objective is to define conserved properties of ABDs that allow them to interact with disparate activator sequences. The ABD of the coactivator Med25 (activator interaction domain or AcID) is unique in that it contains secondary structural elements that are on both ends of the spectrum: helices and loops that display significant conformational mobility and a seven-stranded β-barrel core that is structurally rigid. Using biophysical approaches, we build a mechanistic model of how AcID forms binary and ternary complexes with three distinct activators; despite its static core, Med25 forms short-lived, conformationally mobile, and structurally distinct complexes with each of the cognate partners. Further, ternary complex formation is facilitated by allosteric communication between binding surfaces on opposing faces of the β-barrel. The model emerging suggests that the conformational shifts and cooperative binding is mediated by a flexible substructure comprised of two dynamic helices and flanking loops, indicating a conserved mechanistic model of activator engagement across ABDs. Targeting a region of this substructure with a small-molecule covalent cochaperone modulates ternary complex formation. Our data support a general strategy for the identification of allosteric small-molecule modulators of ABDs, which are key targets for mechanistic studies as well as therapeutic applications.


Med25; allosteric modulator; protein–protein interactions; transcriptional coactivator

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