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p63 sets the threshold for induction of apoptosis using a kinetically encoded 'doorbell-like' mechanism

By Jakob Gebel, Marcel Tuppi, Apirat Chaikuad, Katharina Hötte, Laura Schulz, Frank Löhr, Niklas Gutfreund, Franziska Finke, Martin Schröder, Erik Henrich, Julija Mezhyrova, Ralf Lehnert, Francesco Pampaloni, Gerhard Hummer, Ernst H.K. Stelzer, Stefan Knapp, Volker Dötsch

Posted 24 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/681007

Cell fate decisions such as apoptosis require cells to translate signaling input into a binary yes/no response. A tight control of the process is required to avoid loss of cells by accidental activation of cell death pathways. One particularly critical situation exists in primary oocytes because their finite number determines the reproductive capacity of females. On the one hand a stringent genetic quality control is necessary to maintain the genetic integrity of the entire species; on the other hand an overly stringent mechanism that kills oocytes with even minor DNA damage can deplete the whole primary oocyte pool leading to infertility. The p53 homolog TAp63α is the key regulator of genome integrity in oocytes. After DNA damage TAp63α is activated by multistep phosphorylation involving multiple phosphorylation events by the kinase CK1, which triggers the transition from a dimeric and inactive conformation to an open and active tetramer. By measuring activation kinetics in ovaries and single site phosphorylation kinetics in vitro with peptides and full length protein we show that TAp63α phosphorylation follows a biphasic behavior. While the first two CK1 phosphorylation events are fast, the third one that constitutes the decisive step to form the active conformation is slow. We reveal the structural mechanism for the difference in the kinetic behavior based on an unusual CK1/TAp63α substrate interaction and demonstrate by quantitative simulation that the slow phosphorylation phase determines the threshold of DNA damage required for induction of apoptosis.

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