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J Biol Chem. 1998 Apr 24;273(17):10602-8.

Tenascin-C hexabrachion assembly is a sequential two-step process initiated by coiled-coil alpha-helices.

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Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


We have investigated the oligomerization process of tenascin-C using a variety of recombinant wild-type and mutant polypeptide chain fragments produced by heterologous gene expression in Escherichia coli. Biochemical and biophysical analyses of the structures and assemblies of these fragments indicated a sequential two-step oligomerization mechanism of tenascin-C involving the concerted interaction of two distinct domains and cysteines 64, 111, and 113. First, the sequence between alanine 114 and glutamine 139 initiates hexabrachion formation via a parallel three-stranded coiled coil. Subsequently, the tenascin assembly domain, which is unique to the tenascins, is responsible for the connection of two triplets to a hexamer. The oligomerization of the tenascin assembly domains by the three-stranded coiled coil increases their homophilic binding affinity and is an important prerequisite for tenascin-C hexamerization. Although formation of the characteristic hexabrachion structure involves the covalent linkage of the six subunits by cysteine residues, mutational analysis indicates that hexamer formation is not dependent on intermolecular disulfide bonds. Most interestingly, substitution of glutamate 130 within the coiled-coil domain by leucine or alanine resulted in the formation of parallel four-stranded helix structures, which further associated to dodecamers. Aside from supporting a sequential process of tenascin-C assembly, this finding provides experimental evidence that non-core residues can have profound effects on the oligomerization states of coiled coils.

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