Structure/function analysis of Xenopus cryptochromes 1 and 2 reveals differential nuclear localization mechanisms and functional domains important for interaction with and repression of CLOCK-BMAL1.

Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4328, USA.
Molecular and Cellular Biology (Impact Factor: 5.04). 04/2007; 27(6):2120-9. DOI: 10.1128/MCB.01638-06
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Circadian rhythms control the temporal arrangement of molecular, physiological, and behavioral processes within an organism and also synchronize these processes with the external environment. A cell autonomous molecular oscillator, consisting of interlocking transcriptional/translational feedback loops, drives the approximately 24-hour duration of these rhythms. The cryptochrome protein (CRY) plays a central part in the negative feedback loop of the molecular clock by translocating to the nucleus and repressing CLOCK and BMAL1, two transcription factors that comprise the positive elements in this cycle. In order to gain insight into the inner workings of this feedback loop, we investigated the structure/function relationships of Xenopus laevis CRY1 (xCRY1) and xCRY2 in cultured cells. The C-terminal tails of both xCRY1 and xCRY2 are sufficient for their nuclear localization but achieve it by different mechanisms. Through the generation and characterization of xCRY/photolyase chimeras, we found that the second half of the photolyase homology region (PHR) of CRY is important for repression through facilitating interaction with BMAL1. Characterization of these functional domains in CRYs will help us to better understand the mechanism of the known roles of CRYs and to elucidate new intricacies of the molecular clock.

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    ABSTRACT: Circadian clocks in mammals are based on a negative feedback loop in which transcriptional repression by the cryptochromes, CRY1 and CRY2, lies at the heart of the mechanism. Despite similarities in sequence, domain structure, and biochemical activity, they play distinct roles in clock function. However, detailed biochemical studies have not been straightforward and Cry function has not been examined in real clock cells using kinetic measurements. In this study, we demonstrate, through cell-based genetic complementation and real-time molecular recording, that Cry1 alone is able to maintain cell-autonomous circadian rhythms, whereas Cry2 cannot. Using this novel functional assay, we identify a cryptochrome differentiating α-helical domain within the photolyase homology region (PHR) of CRY1, designated as CRY1-PHR(313-426), that is required for clock function and distinguishes CRY1 from CRY2. Contrary to speculation, the divergent carboxyl-terminal tail domain (CTD) is dispensable, but serves to modulate rhythm amplitude and period length. Finally, we identify the biochemical basis of their distinct function; CRY1 is a much more potent transcriptional repressor than CRY2, and the strength of repression by various forms of CRY proteins significantly correlates with rhythm amplitude. Taken together, our results demonstrate that CRY1-PHR(313-426), not the divergent CTD, is critical for clock function. These findings provide novel insights into the evolution of the diverse functions of the photolyase/cryptochrome family of flavoproteins and offer new opportunities for mechanistic studies of CRY function.
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    ABSTRACT: The cryptochrome/photolyase (CRY/PL) family of photoreceptors mediates adaptive responses to ultraviolet and blue light exposure in all kingdoms of life. Whereas PLs function predominantly in DNA repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and 6-4 photolesions caused by ultraviolet radiation, CRYs transduce signals important for growth, development, magnetosensitivity and circadian clocks. Despite these diverse functions, PLs/CRYs preserve a common structural fold, a dependence on flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and an internal photoactivation mechanism. However, members of the CRY/PL family differ in the substrates recognized (protein or DNA), photochemical reactions catalysed and involvement of an antenna cofactor. It is largely unknown how the animal CRYs that regulate circadian rhythms act on their substrates. CRYs contain a variable carboxy-terminal tail that appends the conserved PL homology domain (PHD) and is important for function. Here, we report a 2.3-Å resolution crystal structure of Drosophila CRY with an intact C terminus. The C-terminal helix docks in the analogous groove that binds DNA substrates in PLs. Conserved Trp 536 juts into the CRY catalytic centre to mimic PL recognition of DNA photolesions. The FAD anionic semiquinone found in the crystals assumes a conformation to facilitate restructuring of the tail helix. These results help reconcile the diverse functions of the CRY/PL family by demonstrating how conserved protein architecture and photochemistry can be elaborated into a range of light-driven functions.
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