The classic 18.5 kDa isoform of murine myelin basic protein (mMBP) has been shown to bind calmodulin (CaM) strongly and specifically in vitro. Here, we have used site-directed spin labelling (SDSL) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to map more precisely the sites of interaction of recombinant mMBP (rmMBP) with CaM. On the basis of these and previous experimental data, and the predictions of CaM-binding motifs using the Calmodulin Target Database (http://calcium.uhnres.utoronto.ca), three main segments of MBP were suggested for the interaction. The first site is located at the C-terminus; the second one lies in the central portion of the protein and forms an amphipathic α-helix in reconstituted myelin-mimetic systems; the third is quite close to the N-terminus. The murine Golli-MBP isoform J37 has also been shown to bind CaM in vitro, and an interaction site was predicted in the N-terminal Golli-specific portion of the protein. From these four segments, we selected peptide fragments of 12-14 residues in length, chosen on the bases of their amphipathicity and CaM-target characteristics. We modelled each of these peptides as α-helices, and performed docking simulations to investigate their interactions with the CaM peptide-binding tunnel. Different yet almost equally favourable CaM-binding modes were found for each of them. The experimental SDSL/EPR and theoretical modelling results were in good agreement, and supported the conjecture that there are several plausible CaM-binding sites in MBP, that could be induced into an α-helical conformation by their interaction with CaM and account for strong immobilisation of spin-labeled residues in all three segments. Phosphorylation and deimination were also emulated and simulated for known sites of MBP post-translational modification. The results obtained confirmed the appropriate utilisation of simple residue substitutions to mimic the natural modifications, and demonstrated molecular mechanisms by which MBP-CaM interactions could be modulated in vivo.
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