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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 8;105(27):9238-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802130105. Epub 2008 Jun 30.

Tyrosine phosphorylation regulates the partitioning of STAT1 between different dimer conformations.

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School of Biomedical Sciences, Nottingham University Medical School, Nottingham NG7 2UH, United Kingdom.


The activation/inactivation cycle of STAT transcription factors entails their transition between different dimer conformations. Unphosphorylated STATs can dimerize in an antiparallel conformation via extended interfaces of the globular N-domains, whereas STAT activation triggers a parallel dimer conformation with mutual phosphortyrosine:SH2 domain interactions, resulting in DNA-binding and nuclear retention. However, despite the crucial role of STAT tyrosine phosphorylation in cytokine signaling, it has not been determined how this modification affects the stability and the conformational flexibility of STAT dimers. Here, we use analytical ultracentrifugation and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) to study the association of STAT1 in solution before and after tyrosine phosphorylation. It is revealed that STAT1 formed high-affinity dimers (K(d) of approximately 50 nM) with estimated half-lives of 20-40 min irrespective of the phosphorylation status. Our results demonstrate that parallel and antiparallel conformations of STAT1 were present simultaneously, supported by mutually exclusive interfaces; and the transition between conformations occurred through affinity-driven dissociation/association reactions. Therefore, tyrosine phosphorylation was dispensable for DNA binding, but the phosphorylation enforced preformed SH2 domain-mediated dimers, thus enhancing the DNA-binding activity of STAT1 >200-fold. Moreover, upon STAT1 activation the N-domains adopted an open conformation and engaged in interdimer interactions, as demonstrated by their participation in tetramerization instead of dimerization. Yet, homotypic N-domain interactions are not conserved in the STAT family, because the N-domain dissociation constants of STAT1, STAT3, and STAT4 differed by more than three orders of magnitude. In conclusion, STAT1 constantly oscillated between different dimer conformations, whereby the abundance of the dimerization interfaces was determined by tyrosine phosphorylation.

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