PloS one

Dissecting the functional role of the N-terminal domain of the human small heat shock protein HSPB6.

PMID 25157403


HSPB6 is a member of the human small heat shock protein (sHSP) family, a conserved group of molecular chaperones that bind partially unfolded proteins and prevent them from aggregating. In vertebrate sHSPs the poorly structured N-terminal domain has been implicated in both chaperone activity and the formation of higher-order oligomers. These two functionally important properties are likely intertwined at the sequence level, complicating attempts to delineate the regions that define them. Differing from the prototypical α-crystallins human HSPB6 has been shown to only form dimers in solution making it more amendable to explore the determinants of chaperoning activity alone. Using a systematic and iterative deletion strategy, we have extensively investigated the role of the N-terminal domain on the chaperone activity of this sHSP. As determined by size-exclusion chromatography and small-angle X-ray scattering, most mutants had a dimeric structure closely resembling that of wild-type HSPB6. The chaperone-like activity was tested using three different substrates, whereby no single truncation, except for complete removal of the N-terminal domain, showed full loss of activity, pointing to the presence of multiple sites for binding unfolding proteins. Intriguingly, we found that the stretch encompassing residues 31 to 35, which is nearly fully conserved across vertebrate sHSPs, acts as a negative regulator of activity, as its deletion greatly enhanced chaperoning capability. Further single point mutational analysis revealed an interplay between the highly conserved residues Q31 and F33 in fine-tuning its function.