Role of a highly conserved region of the NF-kappaB essential modulator in its scaffolding function
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Scaffold proteins facilitate many aspects of intracellular signaling. These proteins can regulate two or more proteins in the same pathway, or coordinate signaling from multiple pathways. Scaffold proteins are therefore key control points for the flux of signaling and play essential roles in biological systems. There are four possible mechanisms by which scaffold proteins achieve activation and propagate signaling: 1) rigid protein binding between two or more proteins to co-localize binding partners, 2) ligand-induced activation such as may result from a conformational change, 3) disorder-to-order transition where the scaffold protein folds as a result of a protein-protein interaction, and 4) dynamic processes such as phosphorylation. The scaffold protein NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO) functions via ligand-induced activation and serves as the key control point for canonical NF-κB signaling. The work described in this thesis investigates the role of a previously uncharacterized domain within NEMO that is required for function, which we term the Intervening Domain (IVD). Bioinformatic analysis reveals a high level of sequence conservation across species within this domain. Conformational changes following ligand binding are observed for NEMO and these changes require conserved sequences in the IVD. Additionally, a functional IVD is shown to increase the binding affinity of NEMO for IKKβ, enhance the thermal stability of NEMO, and is required to propagate NF-κB signaling in cells. A fluorescence-based assay is also developed to characterize the formation of a complex composed of NEMO, a zinc ion, and IκBα. A separate fluorescence-based assay is developed to measure IKK activity and is used to determine that NEMO alone or in the presence of linear tetraubiquitin does not enhance the rate of IKKβ phosphorylation of an IκBα-derived peptide. Furthermore, a number of organic small molecules and macrocycles are screened against the NEMO-IKKβ interaction. One small molecule was validated as an inhibitor and its biophysical properties and inhibition kinetics are described in this thesis. These analyses represent the first characterization of a highly conserved domain required for the function of the key control point in NF-κB signaling. The IVD domain of NEMO could be targeted for development of an allosteric effector for therapeutic discovery.
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