The interactions between B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) family members are known to be mediated through the binding of the BH3 domain of a proapoptotic member to the BH3-binding groove of an antiapoptotic member. We determined the crystal structure of antiapoptotic CED-9, which reveals a unique C-terminal helix altering the common BH3-binding region. A coexpression system to produce CED-9 in complex with proapoptotic EGL-1 enabled us to show that the binding of EGL-1 to CED-9 is extremely stable, raising the melting temperature (T(M)) of CED-9 by 25 degrees C, and that the binding surface of CED-9 extends beyond the BH3-binding region and reaches the BH4 domain. Consistently, the T(M) and a 1H-15N correlation NMR spectrum of CED-9 in complex with EGL-1 are drastically different from those of CED-9 in complex with the EGL-1 BH3 peptide. The data suggest that the recognition between other BCL-2 family members may also involve much wider protein surfaces than is previously thought.
Published Online 1 August 2003