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Forkhead box P (FoxP) proteins are members of the versatile Fox transcription factors, which control the timing and expression of multiple genes for eukaryotic cell homeostasis. Compared to other Fox proteins, they can form domain-swapped dimers through their DNA-binding -forkhead- domains, enabling spatial reorganization of distant chromosome elements by tethering two DNA molecules together. Yet, domain swapping stability and DNA binding affinity varies between different FoxP proteins. Experimental evidence suggests that the protonation state of a histidine residue conserved in all Fox proteins is responsible for pH-dependent modulation of these interactions. Here, we explore the consequences of the protonation state of another histidine (H59), only conserved within FoxM/O/P subfamilies, on folding and dimerization of the forkhead domain of human FoxP1. Dimer dissociation kinetics and equilibrium unfolding experiments demonstrate that protonation of H59 leads to destabilization of the domain-swapped dimer due to an increase in free energy difference between the monomeric and transition states. This pH-dependence is abolished when H59 is mutated to alanine. Furthermore, anisotropy measurements and molecular dynamics evidence that H59 has a direct impact in the local stability of helix H3. Altogether, our results highlight the relevance of H59 in domain swapping and folding stability of FoxP1.


Exequiel Medina, Pablo Villalobos, Ricardo Coñuecar, César A Ramírez-Sarmiento, Jorge Babul. The protonation state of an evolutionarily conserved histidine modulates domainswapping stability of FoxP1. Scientific reports. 2019 Apr 01;9(1):5441

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PMID: 30931977

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