Redox-sensitive structure and function of the first extracellular loop of the cell-cell contact protein claudin-1: lessons from molecular structure to animals

Sebastian Dabrowski, Christian Staat, Denise Zwanziger, Reine-Solange Sauer, Christian Bellmann, Ramona Günther, Eberhard Krause, Reiner Fritz Haseloff, Heike Rittner, and Ingolf Ernst Blasig

Antioxidants & Redox Signaling
2014 vol: 22 issue: 1 doi: 10.1089/ars.2013.5706

The paracellular cleft within epithelia/endothelia is sealed by tight junction (TJ) proteins. Their extracellular loops (ECLs) are assumed to control paracellular permeability and are targets of pathogenes. We demonstrated that claudin-1 is crucial for paracellular tightening. Its ECL1 is essential for the sealing and contains two cysteines conserved throughout all claudins.

We prove the hypothesis that this cysteine motif forms a redox-sensitive intramolecular disulfide bridge and, hence, the claudin-1-ECL1 constitutes a functional structure which is associated to ECLs of this and other TJ proteins.

The structure and function of claudin-1-ECL1 was elucidated by investigating sequences of this ECL as synthetic peptides, C1C2, and as recombinant proteins, and exhibited a β-sheet binding surface flanked by an α-helix. These sequences bound to different claudins, their ECL1, and peptides with nanomolar binding constants. C-terminally truncated C1C2 (-4aaC) opened cellular barriers and the perineurium. Recombinant ECL1 formed oligomers, and bound to claudin-1 expressing cells. Oligomerization and claudin association were abolished by reducing agents, indicating intraloop disulfide bridging and redox sensitivity.

The structural and functional model based on our in vitro and in vivo investigations suggested that claudin-1-ECL1 constitutes a functional and ECL-binding β-sheet, stabilized by a shielded and redox-sensitive disulfide bond.

Since the β-sheet represents a consensus sequence of claudins and further junctional proteins, a general structural feature is implied. Therefore, our model is of general relevance for the TJ assembly in normal and pathological conditions. C1C2-4aaC is a new drug enhancer that is used to improve pharmacological treatment through tissue barriers.

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Topics: Fusion proteins, Peptides, Monolith – MicroScale Thermophoresis, MST, Proteins, Publications