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

Interference in vimentin assembly in vitro by synthetic peptides derived from the vimentin head domain.

The importance of the amino-terminal domain ("head") of type III intermediate filament (IF) proteins in IF assembly has been examined by testing the influence of synthetic peptides representing a highly conserved decameric motif, KSSSYRRIMFGG, located near the amino terminus of vimentin. When added to soluble vimentin subunits this peptide induces, at fourfold molar excess or slightly above, the appearance of short, regular rod-like structures as determined by electron microscopy of negatively stained and rotary-shadowed preparations as well as by viscometry. At higher peptide concentrations large, irregularly shaped aggregates of mostly non-IF structures formed, but this aggregation was reversible by prolonged dialysis against low ionic strength buffer. The aggregating effect of this peptide was highly sequence-specific and was not seen with point-mutated sequences such as RR----TR or with unrelated peptides containing a central diarginine, indicating that it is not simply ionic. When different hexapeptides representing different "head" positions were compared, only the central sequence, SYRRXF, was as effective as the decamer. The addition of peptide during IF assembly did not prevent filament formation, although 50-fold molar excess of peptide resulted in a drastic increase (up to 40 nm) in the width of the filaments, which also appeared less regular, thus reflecting some interference with assembly. In contrast to the effects on soluble vimentin, the decameric peptide did not disturb IFs, indicating that the binding domain is "masked" or stabilized in the filaments. To identify the domain to which the peptide binds, three different binding assays using vimentin fragments and genetically engineered vimentin deletion mutants were employed. The results indicate that the binding domain of the near-amino-terminal peptide is located at the start of the alpha-helical "rod" domain of the protein. Possible mechanisms of interaction of these two portions of vimentin during IF assembly are discussed.[1]


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