Uncovering Protein Autoinhibition Using NanoBRET™ Technology

13305818-protein ligand

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA article, Wang et al. used the principle of the Promega NanoBRET™ assay to understand how ERK1/2 phosphorylation of Rabin8, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor, influenced its configuration and subsequent activation of Rab8, a protein that regulates exocytosis.

Crystal structure of GDP-boudn Rab8:Rabin8 ImageSource=RCSB PDB; StructureID=4lhy; DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.2210/pdb4lhy/pdb;
Crystal structure of GDP-boudn Rab8:Rabin8 ImageSource=RCSB PDB; StructureID=4lhy; DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.2210/pdb4lhy/pdb;

Rab8 is a member of the Rab family of small GTPases and an important regulator of membrane trafficking from the trans Golgi network and recycling endosomes to the plasma membrane. Wang et al. were interested in learning how the guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) Rabin8, a known activator of Rab8, was itself activated to better understand how Rab8 and exocytosis were regulated in the cell. First, they confirmed if the consensus extracellular-signal-regulated kinases ERK1/2 phosphorylation motif uncovered in Rabin8 resulted in phosphorylation of Rabin8. Both in vitro analysis and cell-based assays confirmed that ERK1/2 phosphorylated Rabin8. Next, the GEF activity of Rabin8 was assessed to determine if ERK1/2 phosphorylation activated the GEF. Researchers confirmed activation of Rabin8 GEF in vitro.

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Detecting Inhibition of Protein Interactions in vivo

Protein Interactions with NanoBRET

In a paper published in the September 2014 issue of ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, researchers from GlaxoSmithKline in the UK and Germany report on the discovery, binding mode and structure:activity relationship of a potent BRPF1 (bromodomain and PHD finger containing protein family) inhibitor. This paper came to our attention as it is one of the first publications to apply Promega NanoBRET technology in an vivo assay that reversibly measures the interaction of protein partners. The technology enabled the identification of a novel inhibitor compound that disrupts the chromatin binding of this relatively unstudied class of bromodomain proteins.

What exactly are bromodomains and why do they matter?
Bromodomains are regions (~100 amino acids) within chromatin regulator proteins that recognize and “read” acetylated lysine residues on histones. These acetylated lysines act as docking stations for regulatory protein complexes via binding of the bromodomain region. Because of their role in chromatin binding and gene regulation, bromodomains have attracted interest as potential targets for anti-cancer treatments. Although some bromodomain-containing proteins (e.g., those in the bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) subfamily) are well characterized and have been identified as potential therapeutic targets, others are less well understood.

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Site-specific copy number variations in cancer: A story begins to unfold

Designed by Nick Klein for ISO-form, courtesy of Promega.
Designed by Nick Klein for ISO-form, courtesy of Promega.

Tumor cells are characterized by many features: including uncontrolled proliferation, to loss of contact inhibition, acquired chromosomal instability and gene copy number changes among them. Some of those copy number changes are site-specific, but very little is known about the mechanisms or proteins involved in creating site-specific copy number changes. In a recently published Cell paper, Black and colleagues, propose a mechanism for site-specific copy number variations involving histone methylation proteins and replication complexes.

Previous work from Klang et al. had shown that local amplification of chromosomal regions occurs during S phase and that chromatin structure plays a critical role in this amplification (2), and other work by Black and colleagues (3) implicated KDM4A in changing timing of replication by altering chromatin accessibility in specific regions. Other research also had shown that KDM4A protein levels influence replication initiation and that KDM4A has a role in some DNA damage response pathways (4,5).  Looking at the body of work, Black et al. hypothesized that KDM4A, with its roles in replication, might possibly provide link into the mechanism of site-specific copy number variation in cancer. Continue reading “Site-specific copy number variations in cancer: A story begins to unfold”

Basic Biology Matters

crop image2Every scientific paper is the story of a journey from an initial hypothesis to a final conclusion. It may take months or years and consists of many steps taken carefully one at a time. The experiments are repeated, the controls verified, the negative and positive results analyzed until the story finally makes sense. Sometimes the end of the story confirms the hypothesis, sometimes it is a surprise. A paper published last week in Cell describes a study where a team of researchers investigating one problem in basic biology (how one component of a signaling complex works), found an unexpected and potentially significant application in a different field (cancer research).

The paper, published in the June 6 issue of Cell, describes a previously unknown interaction between two cellular proteins—the transcription factor HIF1A and the cyclin-dependent kinase CDK8—in the regulation of genes associated with cellular survival under low-oxygen conditions. An accompanying press release describes how the discovery of a role for CDK8 in this process may have implications for cancer research, as CDK8 may be a potential target for drugs to combat “hypoxic” tumors. Continue reading “Basic Biology Matters”

Variations on the Two-Hybrid Assay

two-hybrid assays help fit molecules together like puzzle pieces image shows a puzzle

The use of reporter genes for simple analysis of promoter activity (promoter bashing) is a well known practice. However, there are many other elegant applications of reporter technologies. One such application is illustrated in the paper by Zheng et al., published in the Sept. 2008 issue of Cancer Research. These researchers from the Hormel Institute at the University of Minnesota showed that the cyclin-dependent kinase cdk3 phosphorylates the transcription factor ATF1 and enhances its transcriptional and transactivation activity. The observed cdk/ATF1 signaling was shown to have an important role in cell proliferation and transformation. To do this they used several variations of a reporter-based two-hybrid assay.

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