An undecided coiled coil. The leucine zipper of Nek2 kinase exhibits atypical conformational exchaange dymanics


Leucine zippers are oligomerization domains used in a wide range of proteins. Their structure is based on a highly conserved heptad repeat sequence in which two key positions are occupied by leucines. The leucine zipper of the cell cycle-regulated Nek2 kinase is important for its dimerization and activation. However, the sequence of this leucine zipper is most unusual in that leucines occupy only one of the two hydrophobic positions. The other position, depending on the register of the heptad repeat, is occupied by either acidic or basic residues. Using NMR spectroscopy, we show that this leucine zipper exists in two conformations of almost equal population that exchange with a rate of 17 s(-1). We propose that the two conformations correspond to the two possible registers of the heptad repeat. This hypothesis is supported by a cysteine mutant that locks the protein in one of the two conformations. NMR spectra of this mutant showed the predicted 2-fold reduction of peaks in the (15)N HSQC spectrum and the complete removal of cross peaks in exchange spectra. It is possible that interconversion of these two conformations may be triggered by external signals in a manner similar to that proposed recently for the microtubule binding domain of dynein and the HAMP domain. As a result, the leucine zipper of Nek2 kinase is the first example where the frameshift of coiled-coil heptad repeats has been directly observed experimentally.

Journal details

Volume 286
Issue number 31
Pages 27537-27547
Publication date


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