The catalytic activity of Syk-family tyrosine kinases is regulated by a tandem-SH2 module (tSH2 module). In the autoinhibited state, this module adopts a conformation which stabilizes an inactive conformation of the kinase domain. The binding of the tSH2 module to doubly-phosphorylated tyrosine-containing motifs necessitates a conformational change, thereby relieving kinase inhibition and promoting activation. We determined the crystal structure of the isolated tSH2 module of Syk and find, in contrast to ZAP-70, that its conformation more closely resembles that of the peptide-bound state, rather than the autoinhibited state. Hydrogen-deuterium exchange by mass spectrometry, as well as molecular dynamics simulations, reveal that the dynamics of the tSH2 modules of Syk and ZAP-70 differ, with most of these differences occurring in the C-terminal SH2 domain. Our data suggest that the conformational landscapes of the tSH2 modules in Syk and ZAP-70 have been tuned differently, such that the auto-inhibited conformation of the Syk tSH2 module is less stable. This feature of Syk likely contributes to its ability to more readily escape autoinhibition when compared to ZAP-70, consistent with tighter control of downstream signaling pathways in T cells.
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