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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The relation of protein binding to function: what is the significance of munc18 and synaptotagmin binding to syntaxin 1, and where are the corresponding binding sites?

The Q-SNARE syntaxin 1 is a central component of the synaptic membrane fusion machinery. Syntaxin probably interacts with multiple proteins during synaptic vesicle exocytosis. In vitro, the tightest binding partners for syntaxin 1 are other SNAREs (synaptobrevin/VAMP and SNAP-25) and munc18-1 (also known as rbsec1/nsec1). Recent studies on Drosophila syntaxin led to the surprising finding that a syntaxin mutant which does not bind the munc18-homolog Rop nevertheless functionally substitutes for wild-type syntaxin in membrane fusion (Wu et al., Neuron 23, 593-605, 1999). This observation suggested that syntaxin 1 binding to munc18-1 is not essential for fusion, a puzzling conclusion in view of the tight binding of munc18 and syntaxin homologs in all organisms. To address this issue, we have now reinvestigated the interaction of syntaxin with munc18 and Rop. We find that the syntaxin sequence that was mutated in the Drosophila studies is not essential for munc18/Rop binding, and that the mutant is in fact able to bind to munc18/Rop. Thus the fact that the mutant syntaxin rescues release cannot be used as an argument that munc18 binding is not essential. In addition to munc18 and SNAREs, several other proteins have been suggested to interact with various domains of syntaxin 1, notably the calcium-sensor synaptotagmin and the vesicle protein CSP. Our results confirm that the SNARE motif in syntaxin binds to synaptotagmin, but this interaction does not require the very C-terminus of the motif. Interestingly, binding of synaptotagmin appears to be decreased in the closed conformation of syntaxin. In contrast, no interaction of CSP with syntaxin was detected even under low-stringency conditions. Our data suggest 1., that assays measuring protein/protein interactions that involve syntaxin may be more difficult to evaluate than is often assumed because of the sticky nature of the proteins involved, and 2., that it is currently not possible to draw conclusions about the importance of the various interactions with the available data from Drosophila or vertebrates.[1]


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