Journal of molecular biology

Effects of Linker Length and Transient Secondary Structure Elements in the Intrinsically Disordered Notch RAM Region on Notch Signaling.

PMID 26344835


Formation of the bivalent interaction between the Notch intracellular domain (NICD) and the transcription factor CBF-1/RBP-j, Su(H), Lag-1 (CSL) is a key event in Notch signaling because it switches Notch-responsive genes from a repressed state to an activated state. Interaction of the intrinsically disordered RBP-j-associated molecule (RAM) region of NICD with CSL is thought to both disrupt binding of corepressor proteins to CSL and anchor NICD to CSL, promoting interaction of the ankyrin domain of NICD with CSL through an effective concentration mechanism. To quantify the role of disorder in the RAM linker region on the effective concentration enhancement of Notch transcriptional activation, we measured the effects of linker length variation on activation. The resulting activation profile has general features of a worm-like chain model for effective concentration. However, deviations from the model for short sequence deletions suggest that RAM contains sequence-specific structural elements that may be important for activation. Structural characterization of the RAM linker with sedimentation velocity analytical ultracentrifugation and NMR spectroscopy reveals that the linker is compact and contains three transient helices and two extended and dynamic regions. To test if these secondary structure elements are important for activation, we made sequence substitutions to change the secondary structure propensities of these elements and measured transcriptional activation of the resulting variants. Substitutions to two of these nonrandom elements (helix 2, extended region 1) have effects on activation, but these effects do not depend on the nature of the substituting residues. Thus, the primary sequences of these elements, but not their secondary structures, are influencing signaling.