GCK-MODY, dominantly inherited mild fasting hyperglycemia, has been associated with >600 different mutations in the glucokinase (GK)-encoding gene (GCK). When expressed as recombinant pancreatic proteins, some mutations result in enzymes with normal/near-normal catalytic properties. The molecular mechanism(s) of GCK-MODY due to these mutations has remained elusive. Here, we aimed to explore the molecular mechanisms for two such catalytically 'normal' GCK mutations (S263P and G264S) in the F260-L270 loop of GK. When stably overexpressed in HEK293 cells and MIN6 β-cells, the S263P- and G264S-encoded mutations generated misfolded proteins with an increased rate of degradation (S263P>G264S) by the protein quality control machinery, and a propensity to self-associate (G264S>S263P) and form dimers (SDS resistant) and aggregates (partly Triton X-100 insoluble), as determined by pulse-chase experiments and subcellular fractionation. Thus, the GCK-MODY mutations S263P and G264S lead to protein misfolding causing destabilization, cellular dimerization/aggregation and enhanced rate of degradation. In silico predicted conformational changes of the F260-L270 loop structure are considered to mediate the dimerization of both mutant proteins by a domain swapping mechanism. Thus, similar properties may represent the molecular mechanisms for additional unexplained GCK-MODY mutations, and may also contribute to the disease mechanism in other previously characterized GCK-MODY inactivating mutations.
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