Many cellular pathways are regulated by the competing activity of protein kinases and phosphatases. The recent identification of arginine phosphorylation as a protein modification in bacteria prompted us to analyze the molecular basis of targeting phospho-arginine. In this work, we characterize an annotated tyrosine phosphatase, YwlE, that counteracts the protein arginine kinase McsB. Strikingly, structural studies of YwlE reaction intermediates provide a direct view on a captured arginine residue. Together with biochemical data, the crystal structures depict the evolution of a highly specific phospho-arginine phosphatase, with the use of a size-and-polarity filter for distinguishing phosphorylated arginine from other phosphorylated side chains. To confirm the proposed mechanism, we performed bioinformatic searches for phosphatases, employing a similar selectivity filter, and identified a protein in Drosophila melanogaster exhibiting robust arginine phosphatase activity. In sum, our findings uncover the molecular framework for specific targeting of phospho-arginine and suggest that protein arginine (de)phosphorylation may be relevant in eukaryotes.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.