Optimal tuning of enzyme signaling is critical for cellular homeostasis. We use fluorescence resonance energy transfer reporters in live cells to follow conformational transitions that tune the affinity of a multidomain signal transducer, protein kinase C (PKC), for optimal response to second messengers. This enzyme comprises two diacylglycerol sensors, the C1A and C1B domains, that have a sufficiently high intrinsic affinity for ligand so that the enzyme would be in a ligand-engaged, active state if not for mechanisms that mask its domains. We show that both diacylglycerol sensors are exposed in newly synthesized PKC and that conformational transitions following priming phosphorylations mask the domains so that the lower affinity sensor, the C1B domain, is the primary diacylglycerol binder. The conformational rearrangements of PKC serve as a paradigm for how multimodule transducers optimize their dynamic range of signaling.
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