Ubiquitin-like with PHD and RING finger domains 1 (UHRF1) is an essential factor for the maintenance of mammalian DNA methylation and harbors several reader modules for recognizing epigenetic marks. The tandem Tudor domain (TTD) of UHRF1 has a peptide-binding groove that functions as a binding platform for intra- or intermolecular interactions. Besides the groove interacting with unphosphorylated linker 2 and spacer of UHRF1, it also interacts with di/tri-methylated histone H3 at Lys9 and DNA ligase 1 (LIG1) at Lys126. Here we focus on the phosphorylation of Ser298 in linker 2, which was implied to regulate the ligand-binding property of the TTD. Although the protein expression level of UHRF1 is unchanged throughout the cell cycle, Ser298 phosphorylated form of UHRF1 is notably increased in the G2/M phase, which is revealed by immunoprecipitation followed by Western blotting. Molecularly, while unphosphorylated linker 2 covers the peptide-binding groove to prevent access of other interactors, small-angle X-ray scattering, thermal stability assay and molecular dynamics simulation revealed that the phosphate group of Ser298 dissociates linker 2 from the peptide-binding groove of the TTD to permit the other interactors to access to the groove. Our data reveal a mechanism in which Ser298 phosphorylation in linker 2 triggers a change of the TTD's structure and may affect multiple functions of UHRF1 by facilitating associations with LIG1 at DNA replication sites and histone H3K9me2/me3 at heterochromatic regions.
Keywords: DNA methylation; isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC); molecular dynamics; phosphorylation; small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS).
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