, Volume 247, Issue 2, pp 137-147

Gain-of-function mutations in a human calmodulin-like protein identify residues critical for calmodulin action in yeast

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Abstract

A human epithelial cell-specific transcript (NB-1) encodes a calmodulin-like protein (hCLP), which is identical in length and 85% identical in amino acid sequence to authentic human calmodulin (hCaM). Although hCaM shares only 60% amino acid sequence identity with yeast calmodulin (CMD1 gene product), hCaM was able to substitute functionally for Cmd1 in yeast cells. In contrast, hCLP was unable to support either spore germination or vegetative growth in Cmd1-deficient yeast cells, even when stably expressed at a level at least an order of magnitude above that of hCaM. Thus, hCLP provides an indicator protein for discerning those residues that are critical for calmodulin function in vivo. In addition to 20 conservative amino acid replacements, hCLP differs from hCaM (and other vertebrate calmodulins that are able to complement acmd1 null mutation) by only three nonconservative substitutions. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to convert these three positions back to residues more typical of those found in authentic calmodulins and to prepare all possible combinations of these three mutations, specifically: three single mutants (R58V, R112N, and A128E), three double mutants (R58V A128E, R112N A128E, and R58V R112N), and the triple mutant (R58V R112N A128E). The triple mutant and one of the double mutants (R58V A128E) were able to restore an apparently normal growth rate to acmd1Δ strain, indicating that the altered hCLPs have acquired the ability to behave as functional calmodulins in yeast. The other two double mutants were able to support growth of Cmd1-deficient cells only weakly, but cells expressing the R112N A128E mutant grew noticeably better than those expressing the R58V R112N mutant. Remarkably, one single mutant (A128E), but not the other two single mutants, was also reproducibly able to support weak growth of acmd1Δ strain. The properties of these gain-of-function, or neomorphic, mutations implicate E128, and to a lesser extent V58, as residues critical for calmodulin action in vivo. Molecular modeling of these positions within the structure of a Ca2+-calmodulin · peptide complex indicates that E128 projects directly into the central cavity occupied by the bound peptide. Thus, E128 may contribute a contact that is vital for the interaction of Cmd1 with one or more of the targets that are essential for yeast cell growth.

Communicated by C. P. Hollenberg