The Notch intracellular domain (NICD) forms a transcriptional activation complex with the DNA-binding factor CSL and a transcriptional co-activator of the Mastermind family (MAML). The "RAM" region of NICD recruits Notch to CSL, facilitating the binding of MAML at the interface between the ankyrin (ANK) repeat domain of NICD and CSL. Here, we report the X-ray structure of a human MAML1/RAM/ANK/CSL/DNA complex, and probe changes in component dynamics upon stepwise assembly of a MAML1/NICD/CSL complex using HX-MS. Association of CSL with NICD exerts remarkably little effect on the exchange kinetics of the ANK domain, whereas MAML1 binding greatly retards the exchange kinetics of ANK repeats 2–3. These exchange patterns identify critical features contributing to the cooperative assembly of Notch transcription complexes (NTCs), highlight the importance of MAML recruitment in rigidifying the ANK domain and stabilizing its interface with CSL, and rationalize the requirement for MAML1 in driving cooperative dimerization of NTCs on paired site DNA.
Association of EBV nuclear proteins EBNA2, EBNA3A and EBNA3C with RBP/CSL, is essential for lymphoblastoid cell line (LCL) proliferation. Conserved residues in the EBNA3 homology domain, required for RBP/CSL interaction, lack the WΦP motif that mediates EBNA2 and Notch binding to the RBP/CSL beta-trefoil domain (BTD). We map RBP/CSL interacting residues within EBNA3A(aa128-204) and EBNA3C(aa211-233). The EBNA3A results are consistent with an earlier report (aa125-222), but the EBNA3C domain is unexpectedly small and includes a “WTP” sequence. This EBNA3C WTP motif confers RBP/CSL binding in vitro, in yeast, and in mammalian cells. Further, an EBNA3C WTP→STP(W227S) mutation impaired BTD binding whereas EBNA3 homology domain mutations disrupted RBP/CSL N-terminal domain (NTD) binding. WTP was not essential for EBNA3C repression of EBNA2 in reporter assays or for maintenance of LCL growth. Our results indicate that EBNA3 proteins interact with multiple RBP/CSL domains, but only NTD interactions are required for LCL growth.
Epstein-Barr Virus; EBNA3; RBP/CSL; Notch; EBNA2
Notch proteins are transmembrane receptors that normally adopt a resting state poised to undergo activating proteolysis upon ligand engagement. Receptor quiescence is maintained by three LIN12/Notch repeats (LNRs), which wrap around a heterodimerization domain (HD) divided by furin cleavage at site S1 during maturation. Ligand binding initiates signaling by inducing sensitivity of the HD to proteolysis at the regulated S2 cleavage site. Here, we used hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry to examine the solution dynamics of the Notch1 negative regulatory region in autoinhibited states before and after S1 cleavage, in a proteolytically sensitive “on” state, and in a complex with an inhibitory antibody. Conversion to the “on” state leads to accelerated deuteration in the S2 region and in nearby secondary structural elements within the HD. In contrast, complexation with the inhibitory antibody retards deuteration around the S2 site. Together, these studies reveal how S2 site exposure is promoted by receptor activation and suppressed by inhibitory antibodies.
The deformable elastic network (DEN) method for reciprocal-space crystallographic refinement improves crystal structures, especially at resolutions lower than 3.5 Å. The DEN web service presented here intends to provide structural biologists with access to resources for running computationally intensive DEN refinements.
Deformable elastic network (DEN) restraints have proved to be a powerful tool for refining structures from low-resolution X-ray crystallographic data sets. Unfortunately, optimal refinement using DEN restraints requires extensive calculations and is often hindered by a lack of access to sufficient computational resources. The DEN web service presented here intends to provide structural biologists with access to resources for running computationally intensive DEN refinements in parallel on the Open Science Grid, the US cyberinfrastructure. Access to the grid is provided through a simple and intuitive web interface integrated into the SBGrid Science Portal. Using this portal, refinements combined with full parameter optimization that would take many thousands of hours on standard computational resources can now be completed in several hours. An example of the successful application of DEN restraints to the human Notch1 transcriptional complex using the grid resource, and summaries of all submitted refinements, are presented as justification.
deformable elastic network restraints; low-resolution refinement; DEN refinement
Notch receptors participate in a highly conserved signalling pathway that regulates normal development and tissue homeostasis in a context- and dose-dependent manner. Deregulated Notch signalling has been implicated in many diseases, but the clearest example of a pathogenic role is found in T cell lymphoblastic leukaemia/lymphoma (T-LL), in which the majority of human and murine tumours have acquired mutations that lead to aberrant increases in Notch1 signalling. Remarkably, it appears that the selective pressure for Notch mutations is virtually unique among cancers to T-LL, presumably reflecting a special context-dependent role for Notch in normal T cell progenitors. Nevertheless, there are some recent reports suggesting that Notch signalling has subtle yet important roles in other forms of hematologic malignancy as well. Here, we review the role of Notch signalling in various blood cancers, focusing on T-LL with an eye toward targeted therapeutics.
Notch signaling; oncogene; T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma; chromosomal rearrangements; targeted therapy
Ligand-induced proteolysis of Notch produces an intracellular effector domain that transduces essential signals by regulating target gene transcription. This function relies on formation of transcriptional activation complexes that include intracellular Notch, a Mastermind co-activator, and the CSL transcription factor bound to cognate DNA. These complexes form higher order assemblies on paired, head-to-head CSL recognition sites. Here, we report the X-ray structure of a dimeric human Notch1 transcription complex loaded on the paired site from the human HES1 promoter. The small interface between the Notch ankyrin domains can accommodate DNA bending and untwisting to allow a range of spacer lengths between the two sites. Remarkably, cooperative dimerization occurs on the Hes5 promoter at a sequence that diverges from the CSL-binding consensus at one of the sites. These studies reveal how promoter organizational features control cooperativity and thus, the responsiveness of different promoters to Notch signaling.
Direct inhibition of transcription factor complexes remains a central challenge in the discipline of ligand discovery. In general, these proteins lack surface involutions suitable for high-affinity binding by small molecules. Here we report the design of synthetic, cell-permeable, stabilized α-helical peptides that target a critical protein–protein interface in the NOTCH transactivation complex. We demonstrate that direct, high-affinity binding of the hydrocarbon-stapled peptide SAHM1 prevents assembly of the active transcriptional complex. Inappropriate NOTCH activation is directly implicated in the pathogenesis of several disease states, including T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL). The treatment of leukaemic cells with SAHM1 results in genome-wide suppression of NOTCH-activated genes. Direct antagonism of the NOTCH transcriptional program causes potent, NOTCH-specific anti-proliferative effects in cultured cells and in a mouse model of NOTCH1-driven T-ALL.
Notch signaling plays multiple roles to direct diverse decisions regarding cell fate during T cell development. During helper T (Th) cell differentiation, Notch is involved in generating optimal Th2 cell responses. Here, we present data investigating how Notch mediates Th2 cell differentiation. Notch showed a CD4+ T cell intrinsic role in promoting IL-4 expression that required GATA-3. In the absence of Notch signals, Gata3 expression was markedly diminished. Introduction of an activated allele of Notch1 into CD4+ T cells led to the specific and direct upregulation of a developmentally regulated Gata3 transcript that included the exon 1a sequences. Furthermore, Notch acted in parallel with GATA-3 to synergistically activate IL-4 expression. Together, these data implicate Gata3 as a direct transcriptional Notch target that acts in concert with Notch signaling to generate optimal Th2 cell responses.
Notch proteins constitute the receptors of a highly conserved signaling pathway that influences cell fate decisions both during development and in adults. A proteolytic cascade induced by ligand stimulation results in release of the Notch intracellular domain from the cell membrane, allowing it to enter the nucleus and form a complex with a DNA-bound transcription factor called CSL and a coactivator of the Mastermind family. Assembly of this Notch nuclear complex is the key step in the transcriptional response to a Notch signal. In the studies reported here, we have mapped residues important for the stabilization of this multiprotein-DNA complex using site-directed mutagenesis, determined the affinity of the three-domain form of CSL for its various partners, and investigated sources of cooperativity in complex formation by monitoring the influence of various components of the complex on the interactions of CSL with its other partners. Our findings are consistent with a model for complex assembly in which the RAM domain of Notch increases the effective concentration of the ANK domain for its binding site on the Rel-homology region of CSL, enabling docking of the ANK domain and subsequent recruitment of the MAML co-activator.
Signal transduction; Fluorescence resonance energy transfer; CSL; Mastermind; Protein-protein interaction
Proteins of the low-density lipoprotein receptor family transport cholesterol-carrying particles into cells, clear protease-inhibitor complexes from the circulation, participate in biological signaling cascades, and even serve as viral receptors. These receptors utilize clusters of cysteine-rich LDL receptor type-A (LA) modules to bind many of their ligands. Recent structures show that these modules typically exhibit a characteristic binding mode to recognize their partners, relying primarily on electrostatic complementarity and avidity effects. The dominant contribution of electrostatic interactions with small interface areas in these complexes allows binding to be regulated by changes in pH via at least two distinct mechanisms. The structure of the subtilisin/kexin family protease PCSK9, a newly identified molecular partner of the LDLR also implicated in LDL-cholesterol homeostasis, also raises the possibility that the LDLR and its related family members may employ other strategies for pH-sensitive binding that have yet to be uncovered.
The Notch signaling pathway constitutes an ancient and conserved mechanism for cell-cell communication in metazoan organisms, and has a central role both in development and in adult tissue homeostasis. Here, we summarize structural and biochemical advances that contribute new insights into three central facets of canonical Notch signal transduction: ligand recognition; autoinhibition and the switch from protease resistance to protease sensitivity; and the mechanism of nuclear-complex assembly and the induction of target-gene transcription. These advances set the stage for future mechanistic studies investigating ligand-dependent activation of Notch receptors, and serve as a foundation for the development of mechanism-based inhibitors of signaling in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
The SCAN domain is a conserved region of 84 residues found predominantly in zinc finger DNA-binding proteins in vertebrates. The SCAN domain appears to control the association of SCAN domain containing proteins into noncovalent complexes and may be the primary mechanism underlying partner choice in the oligomerization of these transcription factors. Here we have overexpressed, purified, and characterized the isolated SCAN domain (amino acids 37–132) from ZNF174. Both size exclusion chromatography and equilibrium sedimentation analysis demonstrate that the ZNF174 SCAN domain forms a homodimer. Circular dichroism shows that the isolated SCAN domain dimer has ~42% α-helix. Thermal denaturation experiments indicate that the SCAN domain undergoes a single reversible unfolding transition with a Tm of over 70 °C. The midpoint of the equilibrium unfolding transition increases with increasing protein concentration, consistent with a two-state unfolding transition in which folded dimer is in equilibrium with unfolded monomer. These findings demonstrate that the isolated SCAN domain forms a stable dimer and support a model in which the SCAN domain is capable of mediating the selective dimerization of a large family of vertebrate-specific, zinc finger-containing transcription factors.
NOTCH1 is a large type I transmembrane receptor that regulates normal T-cell development via a signaling pathway that relies on regulated proteolysis. Ligand binding induces proteolytic cleavages in NOTCH1 that release its intracellular domain (ICN1), which translocates to the nucleus and activates target genes by forming a short-lived nuclear complex with two other proteins, the DNA-binding factor CSL and a Mastermind-like (MAML) coactivator. Recent work has shown that human T-ALL is frequently associated with C-terminal NOTCH1 truncations, which uniformly remove sequences lying between residues 2524 and 2556. This region includes the highly conserved sequence WSSSSP (S4), which based on its amino acid content appeared to be a likely site for regulatory serine phosphorylation events. We show here that the mutation of the S4 sequence leads to hypophosphorylation of ICN1; increased NOTCH1 signaling; and the stabilization of complexes containing ICN1, CSL, and MAML1. Consistent with these in vitro studies, mutation of the WSSSSP sequence converts nonleukemogenic weak gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles into alleles that cause aggressive T-ALLs in a murine bone marrow transplant model. These studies indicate that S4 is an important negative regulatory sequence and that the deletion of S4 likely contributes to the development of human T-ALL.
The NOTCH1 receptor is cleaved within its extracellular domain by furin during its maturation, yielding two subunits that are held together noncovalently by a juxtamembrane heterodimerization (HD) domain. Normal NOTCH1 signaling is initiated by the binding of ligand to the extracellular subunit, which renders the transmembrane subunit susceptible to two successive cleavages within and C terminal to the heterodimerization domain, catalyzed by metalloproteases and γ-secretase, respectively. Because mutations in the heterodimerization domain of NOTCH1 occur frequently in human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), we assessed the effect of 16 putative tumor-associated mutations on Notch1 signaling and HD domain stability. We show here that 15 of the 16 mutations activate canonical NOTCH1 signaling. Increases in signaling occur in a ligand-independent fashion, require γ-secretase activity, and correlate with an increased susceptibility to cleavage by metalloproteases. The activating mutations cause soluble NOTCH1 heterodimers to dissociate more readily, either under native conditions (n = 3) or in the presence of urea (n = 11). One mutation, an insertion of 14 residues immediately N terminal to the metalloprotease cleavage site, increases metalloprotease sensitivity more than all others, despite a negligible effect on heterodimer stability by comparison, suggesting that the insertion may expose the S2 site by repositioning it relative to protective NOTCH1 ectodomain residues. Together, these studies show that leukemia-associated HD domain mutations render NOTCH1 sensitive to ligand-independent proteolytic activation through two distinct mechanisms.
Notch proteins are transmembrane receptors that participate in a highly conserved signaling pathway that regulates morphogenesis in metazoans. Newly synthesized Notch receptors are proteolytically cleaved during transit to the cell surface, creating heterodimeric mature receptors comprising noncovalently associated extracellular (NEC) and transmembrane (NTM) subunits. Ligand binding activates Notch by inducing two successive proteolytic cleavages, catalyzed by metalloproteases and gamma-secretase, respectively, that permit the intracellular portion of NTM to translocate to the nucleus and activate transcription of target genes. Prior work has shown that the presence of NEC prevents ligand-independent activation of NTM, but the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. Here, we define the roles of two regions at the C-terminal end of NEC that participate in maintaining the integrity of resting Notch receptors through distinct mechanisms. The first region, a hydrophobic, previously uncharacterized portion of NEC, is sufficient to form stable complexes with the extracellular portion of NTM. The second region, consisting of the three Lin12/Notch repeats, is not needed for heterodimerization but acts to protect NTM from ligand-independent cleavage by metalloproteases. Together, these two contiguous regions of NEC impose crucial restraints that prevent premature Notch receptor activation.
The spring-loaded model stipulates that influenza virus infection is coupled to the transition of the virus hemagglutinin (HA) from a metastable conformation to a highly stable conformation at low pH. The properties of retrovirus envelope glycoproteins indicate that infection is coupled to an analogous conformational change. As a test of this hypothesis, the requirements for avian leukosis virus A (ALV-A) infection were examined. These studies indicate that, like HA, the conformation of the mature ALV-A envelope glycoprotein is metastable and that infection is linked to refolding at low pH. However, unlike HA, low-pH activation is only observed after priming by receptor. Therefore, ALV-A infection is dependent on the synergistic effects of receptor binding and low pH, suggesting that receptor binding superimposes an additional constraint on activation of ALV-A fusion that proceeds by a mechanism comparable to that of influenza virus.
Constitutive NOTCH signaling in lymphoid progenitors promotes the development of immature T-cell lymphoblastic neoplasms (T-ALLs). Although it is clear that Notch signaling can initiate leukemogenesis, it has not previously been established whether continued NOTCH signaling is required to maintain T-ALL growth. We demonstrate here that the blockade of Notch signaling at two independent steps suppresses the growth and survival of NOTCH1-transformed T-ALL cells. First, inhibitors of presenilin specifically induce growth suppression and apoptosis of a murine T-ALL cell line that requires presenilin-dependent proteolysis of the Notch receptor in order for its intracellular domain to translocate to the nucleus. Second, a 62-amino-acid peptide derived from a NOTCH coactivator, Mastermind-like-1 (MAML1), forms a transcriptionally inert nuclear complex with NOTCH1 and CSL and specifically inhibits the growth of both murine and human NOTCH1-transformed T-ALLs. These studies show that continued growth and survival of NOTCH1-transformed lymphoid cell lines require nuclear access and transcriptional coactivator recruitment by NOTCH1 and identify at least two steps in the Notch signaling pathway as potential targets for chemotherapeutic intervention.
Subgroups B, D, and E avian leukosis viruses (ALV-B, -D, and -E) share the same chicken receptor, TVBS1, a tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR)-related protein. These viruses, however, exhibit nonreciprocal receptor interference (NRI): cells preinfected with ALV-B or ALV-D are resistant to superinfection by viruses of all three subgroups, whereas those pre-infected by ALV-E are resistant only to superinfection by other subgroup E viruses. In this study, we investigated the basis of this phenomenon by characterizing the interaction of TVBS1 with ALV-B Env or ALV-E Env. Sequential immunoprecipitation analysis using surface envelope immunoglobulin fusion proteins revealed the existence of two separate types of TVBS1 that are encoded by the same cDNA clone. One form, designated the type 1 receptor, is specific for ALV-B and ALV-E. The other form, the type 2 receptor, is specific for ALV-B. We show that a protein consisting of only the first and second extracellular cysteine-rich domains of TVBS1 is capable of forming both receptor types. However, the third extracellular cysteine-rich domain is required for efficient formation of the type 1 receptor. We also demonstrate that heterogeneous N-linked glycosylation cannot explain the difference in activities of the two receptor types. The existence of two types of TVBS1 explains the NRI pattern between ALV-B and -E: subgroup B viruses establish receptor interference with both receptor types, whereas subgroup E viruses interfere only with the type 1 receptor, leaving the type 2 receptor available to mediate subsequent rounds of ALV-B entry. The formation of a TVB receptor type that is specific for cytopathic ALV may also have important implications for understanding how some subgroups of ALV cause cell death.
Notch receptors participate in a highly conserved signaling pathway that regulates morphogenesis in multicellular animals. Maturation of Notch receptors requires the proteolytic cleavage of a single precursor polypeptide to produce a heterodimer composed of a ligand-binding extracellular domain (NEC) and a single-pass transmembrane signaling domain (NTM). Notch signaling has been correlated with additional ligand-induced proteolytic cleavages, as well as with nuclear translocation of the intracellular portion of NTM (NICD). In the current work, we show that the NEC and NTM subunits of Drosophila Notch and human Notch1 (hN1) interact noncovalently. NEC-NTM interaction was disrupted by 0.1% sodium dodecyl sulfate or divalent cation chelators such as EDTA, and stabilized by millimolar Ca2+. Deletion of the Ca2+-binding Lin12-Notch (LN) repeats from the NEC subunit resulted in spontaneous shedding of NEC into conditioned medium, implying that the LN repeats are important in maintaining the interaction of NEC and NTM. The functional consequences of EDTA-induced NEC dissociation were studied by using hN1-expressing NIH 3T3 cells. Treatment of these cells for 10 to 15 min with 0.5 to 10 mM EDTA resulted in the rapid shedding of NEC, the transient appearance of a polypeptide of the expected size of NICD, increased intranuclear anti-Notch1 staining, and the transient activation of an Notch-sensitive reporter gene. EDTA treatment of HeLa cells expressing endogenous Notch1 also stimulated reporter gene activity to a degree equivalent to that resulting from exposure of the cells to the ligand Delta1. These findings indicate that receptor activation can occur as a consequence of NEC dissociation, which relieves inhibition of the intrinsically active NTM subunit.
A number of Cys2His2 zinc finger proteins contain a highly conserved amino-terminal motif termed the SCAN domain. This element is an 80-residue, leucine-rich region that contains three segments strongly predicted to be α-helices. In this report, we show that the SCAN motif functions as an oligomerization domain mediating self-association or association with other proteins bearing SCAN domains. These findings suggest that the SCAN domain plays an important role in the assembly and function of this newly defined subclass of transcriptional regulators.
The functional interchangeability of mammalian Notch receptors (Notch1-4) in normal and pathophysiologic contexts such as cancer is unsettled. We used complementary in vivo, cell-based and structural analyses to compare the abilities of activated Notch1-4 to support T cell development, induce T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL), and maintain T-ALL cell growth and survival.
We find that the activated intracellular domains of Notch1-4 (ICN1-4) all support T cell development in mice and thymic organ culture. However, unlike ICN1-3, ICN4 fails to induce T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL) and is unable to rescue the growth of Notch1-dependent T-ALL cell lines. The ICN4 phenotype is mimicked by weak gain-of-function forms of Notch1, suggesting that it stems from a failure to transactivate one or more critical target genes above a necessary threshold. Experiments with chimeric receptors demonstrate that the Notch ankyrin repeat domains differ in their leukemogenic potential, and that this difference correlates with activation of Myc, a direct Notch target that has an important role in Notch-associated T-ALL.
We conclude that the leukemogenic potentials of Notch receptors vary, and that this functional difference stems in part from divergence among the highly conserved ankyrin repeats, which influence the transactivation of specific target genes involved in leukemogenesis.
Canonical Notch signaling is initiated when ligand binding induces proteolytic release of the intracellular part of Notch (ICN) from the cell membrane. ICN then travels into the nucleus where it drives the assembly of a transcriptional activation complex containing the DNA-binding transcription factor CSL, ICN, and a specialized co-activator of the Mastermind family. A consensus DNA binding site motif for the CSL protein was previously defined using selection-based methods, but whether subsequent association of Notch and Mastermind-like proteins affects the DNA binding preferences of CSL has not previously been examined.
Here, we utilized protein-binding microarrays (PBMs) to compare the binding site preferences of isolated CSL with the preferred binding sites of CSL when bound to the CSL-binding domains of all four different human Notch receptors. Measurements were taken both in the absence and in the presence of Mastermind-like-1 (MAML1). Our data show no detectable difference in the DNA binding site preferences of CSL before and after loading of Notch and MAML1 proteins.
These findings support the conclusion that accrual of Notch and MAML1 promote transcriptional activation without dramatically altering the preferred sites of DNA binding, and illustrate the potential of PBMs to analyze the binding site preferences of multiprotein-DNA complexes.
Notch receptors normally play a key role in guiding a variety of cell fate decisions during development and differentiation of metazoan organisms. On the other hand, dysregulation of Notch1 signaling is associated with many different types of cancer as well as tumor angiogenesis, making Notch1 a potential therapeutic target.
Here we report the in vitro activities of inhibitory Notch1 monoclonal antibodies derived from cell-based and solid-phase screening of a phage display library. Two classes of antibodies were found, one directed against the EGF-repeat region that encompasses the ligand-binding domain (LBD), and the second directed against the activation switch of the receptor, the Notch negative regulatory region (NRR). The antibodies are selective for Notch1, inhibiting Jag2-dependent signaling by Notch1 but not by Notch 2 and 3 in reporter gene assays, with EC50 values as low as 5±3 nM and 0.13±0.09 nM for the LBD and NRR antibodies, respectively, and fail to recognize Notch4. While more potent, NRR antibodies are incomplete antagonists of Notch1 signaling. The antagonistic activity of LBD, but not NRR, antibodies is strongly dependent on the activating ligand. Both LBD and NRR antibodies bind to Notch1 on human tumor cell lines and inhibit the expression of sentinel Notch target genes, including HES1, HES5, and DTX1. NRR antibodies also strongly inhibit ligand-independent signaling in heterologous cells transiently expressing Notch1 receptors with diverse NRR “class I” point mutations, the most common type of mutation found in human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). In contrast, NRR antibodies failed to antagonize Notch1 receptors bearing rare “class II” or “class III” mutations, in which amino acid insertions generate a duplicated or constitutively sensitive metalloprotease cleavage site. Signaling in T-ALL cell lines bearing class I mutations is partially refractory to inhibitory antibodies as compared to cell-penetrating gamma-secretase inhibitors.
Antibodies that compete with Notch1 ligand binding or that bind to the negative regulatory region can act as potent inhibitors of Notch1 signaling. These antibodies may have clinical utility for conditions in which inhibition of signaling by wild-type Notch1 is desired, but are likely to be of limited value for treatment of T-ALLs associated with aberrant Notch1 activation.
Notch receptors are normally cleaved during maturation by a furin-like protease at an extracellular site termed S1, creating a heterodimer of non-covalently associated subunits. The S1 site lies within a key negative regulatory region (NRR) of the receptor, which contains three highly conserved Lin12/Notch repeats and a heterodimerization domain (HD) that interact to prevent premature signaling in the absence of ligands. Because the role of S1 cleavage in Notch signaling remains unresolved, we investigated the effect of S1 cleavage on the structure, surface trafficking and ligand-mediated activation of human Notch1 and Notch2, as well as on ligand-independent activation of Notch1 by mutations found in human leukemia.
The X-ray structure of the Notch1 NRR after furin cleavage shows little change when compared with that of an engineered Notch1 NRR lacking the S1-cleavage loop. Likewise, NMR studies of the Notch2 HD domain show that the loop containing the S1 site can be removed or cleaved without causing a substantial change in its structure. However, Notch1 and Notch2 receptors engineered to resist S1 cleavage exhibit unexpected differences in surface delivery and signaling competence: S1-resistant Notch1 receptors exhibit decreased, but detectable, surface expression and ligand-mediated receptor activation, whereas S1-resistant Notch2 receptors are fully competent for cell surface delivery and for activation by ligands. Variable dependence on S1 cleavage also extends to T-ALL-associated NRR mutations, as common class 1 mutations display variable decrements in ligand-independent activation when introduced into furin-resistant receptors, whereas a class 2 mutation exhibits increased signaling activity.
S1 cleavage has distinct effects on the surface expression of Notch1 and Notch2, but is not generally required for physiologic or pathophysiologic activation of Notch proteins. These findings are consistent with models for receptor activation in which ligand-binding or T-ALL-associated mutations lead to conformational changes of the NRR that permit metalloprotease cleavage.