Claws, Disorder, and Conformational Dynamics of the C‑Terminal Region of Human Desmoplakin

2016-05-17T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Charles E. McAnany Cameron Mura
Multicellular organisms consist of cells that interact via elaborate adhesion complexes. Desmosomes are membrane-associated adhesion complexes that mechanically tether the cytoskeletal intermediate filaments (IFs) between two adjacent cells, creating a network of tough connections in tissues such as skin and heart. Desmoplakin (DP) is the key desmosomal protein that binds IFs, and the DP·IF association poses a quandary: desmoplakin must stably and tightly bind IFs to maintain the structural integrity of the desmosome. Yet, newly synthesized DP must traffic along the cytoskeleton to the site of nascent desmosome assembly without “sticking” to the IF network, implying weak or transient DP···IF contacts. Recent work reveals that these contacts are modulated by post-translational modifications (PTMs) in DP’s C-terminal tail (DPCTT). Using molecular dynamics simulations, we have elucidated the structural basis of these PTM-induced effects. Our simulations, nearing 2 μs in aggregate, indicate that phosphorylation of S2849 induces an “arginine claw” in desmoplakin’s C-terminal tail. If a key arginine, R2834, is methylated, the DPCTT preferentially samples conformations that are geometrically well-suited as substrates for processive phosphorylation by the cognate kinase GSK3. We suggest that DPCTT is a molecular switch that modulates, via its conformational dynamics, DP’s overall efficacy as a substrate for GSK3. Finally, we show that the fluctuating DPCTT can contact other parts of DP, suggesting a competitive binding mechanism for the modulation of DP···IF interactions.