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Biochemistry. 1997 Jan 7;36(1):57-65.

Site-directed mutagenesis of alpha II spectrin at codon 1175 modulates its mu-calpain susceptibility.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.


Intracellular proteolysis by the calpains, a family of Ca2+ activated cysteine proteases, is a ubiquitous yet poorly understood process. Their action is implicated in an array of cellular and pathologic processes, including long-term potentiation, synaptic remodeling, protein kinase C and steroid receptor activation, ischemic cellular injury, and apoptosis. Unlike most proteases, the calpains display unusually strict substrate specificity, often cleaving only one or two bonds in proteins with hundreds of potential sites. Studies of synthetic peptides have defined sequences that modulate their specificity, but little data exist in the context of a bona fide protein. A prominent substrate for mu-calpain is alpha II spectrin (fodrin, brain spectrin), which is cleaved between Tyr1176 and Gly1177 within spectrin's 11th structural repeat unit. We have cloned and characterized human fetal brain alpha II spectrin (GenBank no. U26396) and identified a new Thr1300 to Ile polymorphism. From this clone, recombinant GST-fusion proteins representing repeat units 8-14 have been prepared and used to systematically explore the in vitro determinants of mu-calpain sensitivity. Twenty different amino acids were substituted by site-directed mutagenesis for wild-type Val1175, the penultimate (P2) residue flanking the major calpain cleavage site in alpha II spectrin. Gly, Pro, and Asp, and to a lesser extent Phe and Glu, substantively inhibited the susceptibility of this site to mu-calpain; other substitutions yielded lesser effects. Dynamic molecular modeling of the 11th structural repeat of human alpha II spectrin incorporating the various mutations suggests that the calpain cleavage site with its flanking calmodulin binding domain interrupts helix C of alpha II spectrin's 11th repetitive unit without significantly disrupting the repeat's triple-helical motif. This model predicts that the critical Tyr1176-Gly1177 bond occurs in a highly exposed loop juxtaposed between helix C and the calmodulin binding domain and that mutations at the P2 position subtly alter the conformation about this site. We conclude that secondary and tertiary conformational features surrounding the cleavage site, rather than the linear sequence itself, dominate the determinants that define alpha II spectrin's mu-calpain susceptibility.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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