Covalent modification and intrinsic disorder in the stability of the proneural protein Neurogenin 2
Neurogenin 2 (Ngn2) is a basic Helix-Loop-Helix (bHLH) transcription factor regulating differentiation and cell cycle exit in the developing brain. By transcriptional upregulation of a cascade of other bHLH factors, neural progenitor cells exit the cell cycle and differentiate towards a neuronal fate. Xenopus laevis Ngn2 (xNgn2) is a short-lived protein, targeted for degradation by the 26S proteasome. I have investigated the stability of Ngn2 mediated by post-translational modifications and structural disorder.
Firstly I will describe work focused on ubiquitylation of xNgn2, targeting it for proteasomal degradation. xNgn2 is ubiquitylated on lysines, the recognized site of modification. I will discuss the role of lysines in ubiquitylation and stability of xNgn2.
In addition to canonical ubiquitylation on lysines, I describe ubiquitylation of xNgn2 on non-canonical sites, namely its amino-terminal amino group, and cysteine, serine and threonine residues. I show that the ubiquitylation of cysteines in particular exhibits cell cycle dependence and is also observed in mammalian cell lines, resulting in cell cycle-dependent regulation of stability.
I will then discuss whether phosphorylation, a regulator of xNgn2 activity, also affects xNgn2 stability. I will provide evidence of cell cycle-dependent phosphorylation of cyclin dependent kinase (cdk) consensus sites affecting the stability of xNgn2.
Finally I describe studies on the folding properties of Ngn2 to assess their role in protein stability. xNgn2 associates with DNA and its heterodimeric binding partner xE12 and may interact directly with the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor Xic1. I will discuss the role of these interaction partners in xNgn2 stability. xNeuroD, a downstream target of xNgn2, is a related bHLH transcription factor which is stable. Here I describe domain swapping experiments between these two proteins highlighting regions conferring instability on the chimeric protein. Finally I will provide nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data looking at the effect of phosphorylation on protein structure in mouse Ngn2 (mNgn2).