The majority of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-related mutations in the enzyme Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1), as well as a post-translational modification, glutathionylation, destabilize the protein and lead to a misfolded oligomer that is toxic to motor neurons. The biophysical role of another physiological SOD1 modification, T2-phosphorylation, has remained a mystery. Here, we find that a phosphomimetic mutation, T2D, thermodynamically stabilizes SOD1 even in the context of a strongly SOD1-destabilizing mutation, A4V, one of the most prevalent and aggressive ALS-associated mutations in North America. This stabilization protects against formation of toxic SOD oligomers and positively impacts motor neuron survival in cellular assays. We solve the crystal structure of T2D-SOD1 and explain its stabilization effect using discrete molecular dynamics (DMD) simulations. These findings imply that T2-phosphorylation may be a plausible innate cellular protection response against SOD1-induced cytotoxicity, and stabilizing the SOD1 native conformation might offer us viable pharmaceutical strategies against currently incurable ALS.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology