Phosphorylation-induced conformational changes in a mitogen-activated protein kinase substrate. Implications for tyrosine hydroxylase activation.

Research paper by Collin M CM Stultz, Andrew D AD Levin, Elazer R ER Edelman

Indexed on: 04 Oct '02Published on: 04 Oct '02Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry


Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase-mediated phosphorylation of specific residues in tyrosine hydroxylase leads to an increase in enzyme activity. However, the mechanism whereby phosphorylation affects enzyme turnover is not well understood. We used a combination of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements and molecular dynamics simulations to explore the conformational free energy landscape of a 10-residue MAP kinase substrate found near the N terminus of the enzyme. This region is believed to be part of an autoregulatory sequence that overlies the active site of the enzyme. FRET was used to measure the effect of phosphorylation on the ensemble of peptide conformations, and molecular dynamics simulations generated free energy profiles for both the unphosphorylated and phosphorylated peptides. We demonstrate how FRET transfer efficiencies can be calculated from molecular dynamics simulations. For both the unphosphorylated and phosphorylated peptides, the calculated FRET efficiencies are in excellent agreement with the experimentally determined values. Moreover, the FRET measurements and molecular simulations suggest that phosphorylation causes the peptide backbone to change direction and fold into a compact structure relative to the unphosphorylated state. These results are consistent with a model of enzyme activation where phosphorylation of the MAP kinase substrate causes the N-terminal region to adopt a compact structure away from the active site. The methods we employ provide a general framework for analyzing the accessible conformational states of peptides and small molecules. Therefore, they are expected to be applicable to a variety of different systems.