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Title: The structure of the cytoplasmic dynein tail
Author: Diamant, Aristides G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 7357
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2015
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Cytoplasmic dynein is a molecular motor that moves cargos along microtubules. Dynein, together with its large co-factor dynactin, is responsible for the vast majority of traffic towards the centre of the cell. The largest subunit of the dynein complex is called the dynein heavy chain (DHC). The DHC includes a C-terminal motor domain, which converts ATP hydrolysis into mechanical force, an N-terminal tail domain, and a flexible linker domain to join the two together. An intermediate chain (DIC) and light intermediate chain (DLIC) bind directly to the DHC tail, while light chains (DLCs) bind to the DIC. This tail complex is important for both cargo binding as well as homodimerisation of the DHC, which is necessary for processive movement. Previous studies suggest that the DLCs play an important role in homodimerisation, but it remains unclear how else the DHCs are held together. Using S. cerevisiae as a model system, I co-expressed all four dynein subunits and purified functional dynein motors. In this background, I found that truncating the DHC to include only the first 1004 residues (out of the total 4092) eliminates the motor domain as well as the flexible linker domain, while preserving binding to the DIC, DLIC and DLC. However, truncating just another 50 residues off of the C-terminus led to a loss of all accessory subunits. I developed a protocol for expressing and purifying large quantities of the 1004 residue construct, thus I provide the first description of a recombinant dynein tail domain. Using negative stain electron microscopy (EM), I also present the first 3D structural information for the tail region of the cytoplasmic dynein motor. I then describe a construct including only the first 557 residues of the DHC, which dimerises despite not being able to bind any of the other subunits. I present a crystal structure of this smaller DHC fragment, which shows that the N-terminal 180 residues of the DHC constitute an intricate dimerisation domain made up of a β-sheet sandwiched between α-helices. Not only is this the first crystal structure of any part of the DHC N-terminus, but it reveals a previously undocumented dimerisation domain within the DHC itself. Furthermore, information garnered from this crystal structure allowed for interpretation of a recent cryo-EM structure of a triple complex containing the dynein tail, dynactin and the cargo adaptor BICD2 (TDB) that was solved by my colleagues in the Carter group. Only by docking the DHC N-terminus crystal structure within the TDB EM density did it become clear that the N-terminus of the DHC is responsible for the majority of the contacts the dynein tail makes with both dynactin and BICD2. Therefore the work that I present here sheds new light on the unexpected importance of the DHC N-terminus and allows two important conclusions to be made. First, the N-terminal 180 residues of the DHC constitute a dimerisation domain of its own. Second, the next ~400 residues of the DHC form a domain that plays a key role in the complex interface between dynein, dynactin and BICD2.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Medical Research Council ; Cambridge Overseas Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: cytoplasmic dynein ; dynein tail complex ; x-ray crystallography ; Saccharomyces cerevisiae ; recombinant dynein expression