Cytokine-induced paracrystals prolong the activity of Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (STAT) and provide a model for the regulation of protein solubility by Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO)

Mathias Droescher, Andreas Begitt, Andreas Marg, Martin Zacharias, Uwe Vinkemeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

The biological effects of cytokines are mediated by STAT proteins, a family of dimeric transcription factors. In order to elicit transcriptional activity, the STATs require activation by phosphorylation of a single tyrosine residue. Our experiments revealed that fully tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT dimers polymerize via Tyr(P)-Src homology 2 domain interactions and assemble into paracrystalline arrays in the nucleus of cytokine-stimulated cells. Paracrystals are demonstrated to be dynamic reservoirs that protect STATs from dephosphorylation. Activated STAT3 forms such paracrystals in acute phase liver cells. Activated STAT1, in contrast, does not normally form paracrystals. By reversing the abilities of STAT1 and STAT3 to be sumoylated, we show that this is due to the unique ability of STAT1 among the STATs to conjugate to small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO). Sumoylation had one direct effect; it obstructed proximal tyrosine phosphorylation, which led to semiphosphorylated STAT dimers. These competed with their fully phosphorylated counterparts and interfered with their polymerization into paracrystals. Consequently, sumoylation, by preventing paracrystal formation, profoundly curtailed signal duration and reporter gene activation in response to cytokine stimulation of cells. The study thus identifies polymerization of activated STAT transcription factors as a positive regulatory mechanism in cytokine signaling. It provides a unifying explanation for the different subnuclear distributions of STAT transcription factors and reconciles the conflicting results as to the role of SUMO modification in STAT1 functioning. We present a generally applicable system in which protein solubility is maintained by a disproportionately small SUMO-modified fraction, whereby modification by SUMO partially prevents formation of polymerization interfaces, thus generating competitive polymerization inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18731-18746
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume286
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 May 2011
Externally publishedYes

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