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J Biol Chem. 1998 Nov 13;273(46):30497-508.

Specificity and promiscuity in phosphoinositide binding by pleckstrin homology domains.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Johnson Research Foundation, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6089, USA.


Pleckstrin homology (PH) domains are small protein modules involved in recruitment of signaling molecules to cellular membranes, in some cases by binding specific phosphoinositides. We describe use of a convenient "dot-blot" approach to screen 10 different PH domains for those that recognize particular phosphoinositides. Each PH domain bound phosphoinositides in the assay, but only two (from phospholipase C-delta1 and Grp1) showed clear specificity for a single species. Using soluble inositol phosphates, we show that the Grp1 PH domain (originally cloned on the basis of its phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PtdIns(3,4,5)P3) binding) binds specifically to D-myo-inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate (Ins(1,3,4,5)P4) (the PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 headgroup) with KD = 27.3 nM, but binds D-myo-inositol 1,3,4-trisphosphate (Ins(1,3,4)P3) or D-myo-inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (Ins(1,4,5)P3) over 80-fold more weakly. We show that this specificity allows localization of the Grp1 PH domain to the plasma membrane of mammalian cells only when phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-K) is activated. The presence of three adjacent equatorial phosphate groups was critical for inositol phosphate binding by the Grp1 PH domain. By contrast, another PH domain capable of PI 3-K-dependent membrane recruitment (encoded by EST684797) does not distinguish Ins(1,3,4)P3 from Ins(1,3,4,5)P3 (binding both with very high affinity), despite selecting strongly against Ins(1,4,5)P3. The remaining PH domains tested appear significantly less specific for particular phosphoinositides. Together with data presented in the literature, our results suggest that many PH domains bind similarly to multiple phosphoinositides (and in some cases phosphatidylserine), and are likely to be regulated in vivo by the most abundant species to which they bind. Thus, using the same simple approach to study several PH domains simultaneously, our studies suggest that highly specific phosphoinositide binding is a characteristic of relatively few cases.

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