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Association of polyalanine and polyglutamine coiled coils mediates expansion disease-related protein aggregation and dysfunction.

Human molecular genetics (2014-02-06)
Ilaria Pelassa, Davide Corà, Federico Cesano, Francisco J Monje, Pier Giorgio Montarolo, Ferdinando Fiumara
ABSTRACT

The expansion of homopolymeric glutamine (polyQ) or alanine (polyA) repeats in certain proteins owing to genetic mutations induces protein aggregation and toxicity, causing at least 18 human diseases. PolyQ and polyA repeats can also associate in the same proteins, but the general extent of their association in proteomes is unknown. Furthermore, the structural mechanisms by which their expansion causes disease are not well understood, and these repeats are generally thought to misfold upon expansion into aggregation-prone β-sheet structures like amyloids. However, recent evidence indicates a critical role for coiled-coil (CC) structures in triggering aggregation and toxicity of polyQ-expanded proteins, raising the possibility that polyA repeats may as well form these structures, by themselves or in association with polyQ. We found through bioinformatics screenings that polyA, polyQ and polyQA repeats have a phylogenetically graded association in human and non-human proteomes and associate/overlap with CC domains. Circular dichroism and cross-linking experiments revealed that polyA repeats can form--alone or with polyQ and polyQA--CC structures that increase in stability with polyA length, forming higher-order multimers and polymers in vitro. Using structure-guided mutagenesis, we studied the relevance of polyA CCs to the in vivo aggregation and toxicity of RUNX2--a polyQ/polyA protein associated with cleidocranial dysplasia upon polyA expansion--and found that the stability of its polyQ/polyA CC controls its aggregation, localization and toxicity. These findings indicate that, like polyQ, polyA repeats form CC structures that can trigger protein aggregation and toxicity upon expansion in human genetic diseases.

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