Background: The SMC5-6 protein complex is involved in the cellular response to DNA damage. It is composed of 6-8 polypeptides, of which Nse1, Nse3 and Nse4 form a tight sub-complex. MAGEG1, the mammalian ortholog of Nse3, is the founding member of the MAGE (melanoma-associated antigen) protein family and Nse4 is related to the EID (E1A-like inhibitor of differentiation) family of transcriptional repressors.
Methodology/principal findings: Using site-directed mutagenesis, protein-protein interaction analyses and molecular modelling, we have identified a conserved hydrophobic surface on the C-terminal domain of Nse3 that interacts with Nse4 and identified residues in its N-terminal domain that are essential for interaction with Nse1. We show that these interactions are conserved in the human orthologs. Furthermore, interaction of MAGEG1, the mammalian ortholog of Nse3, with NSE4b, one of the mammalian orthologs of Nse4, results in transcriptional co-activation of the nuclear receptor, steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1). In an examination of the evolutionary conservation of the Nse3-Nse4 interactions, we find that several MAGE proteins can interact with at least one of the NSE4/EID proteins.
Conclusions/significance: We have found that, despite the evolutionary diversification of the MAGE family, the characteristic hydrophobic surface shared by all MAGE proteins from yeast to humans mediates its binding to NSE4/EID proteins. Our work provides new insights into the interactions, evolution and functions of the enigmatic MAGE proteins.