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The role of N-terminal modification of MeCP2 in the pathophysiology of Rett syndrome

By Taimoor I Sheikh, Alexia Martínez de Paz, Shamim Akhtar, Juan Ausió, John B Vincent

Posted 30 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/122564 (published DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddx300)

Methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), the mutated protein in Rett syndrome (RTT), is a crucial chromatin-modifying and gene-regulatory protein that has two main isoforms (MeCP2_E1 and MeCP2_ E2) due to the alternative splicing and switching between translation start codons in exons one and two. Functionally, these two isoforms appear to be virtually identical; however, evidence suggests that only MeCP2_E1 is relevant to RTT, including a single RTT missense mutation in exon 1, p.Ala2Val. Here, we show that N-terminal co- and post-translational modifications differ for MeCP2_E1, MeCP2_E1-p.Ala2Val and MeCP2_E2, which result in different protein degradation rates in vitro. We report partial N-methionine excision (NME) for MeCP2_E2, whereas NME for MeCP2_E1 is complete. Surprisingly, we also observed evidence of excision of multiple alanine residues from the N-terminal polyalanine stretch. Regarding MeCP2_E1-Ala2Val, we also observed only partial NME and N-acetylation (NA) of either methionine or valine. The localization of MeCP2_E1 and co-localization with chromatin appear to be unaffected by the p.Ala2Val mutation. However, a higher proteasomal degradation rate was observed for MeCP2_E1-Ala2Val compared with that for wild type (WT) MeCP2_E1. Thus, the etiopathology of p.Ala2Val is likely due to a reduced bio-availability of MeCP2 because of the faster degradation rate of the unmodified defective protein. MeCP2_E1 is thought to have a much higher translational efficiency than MeCP2_E2. Our data suggest that this increased efficiency may be balanced by a higher degradation rate. The higher turnover rate of the MeCP2_E1 protein suggests that it may play a more dynamic role in cells than MeCP2_E2.

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