Atomistic mechanism of the constitutive activation of PDGFRA via its transmembrane domain
Single-point mutations in the transmembrane (TM) region of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) can lead to abnormal ligand-independent activation. We use a combination of computational modeling, NMR spectroscopy and cell experiments to analyze in detail the mechanism of how TM domains contribute to the activation of wild-type (WT) PDGFRA and its oncogenic V536E mutant. Using a computational framework, we scan all positions in PDGFRA TM helix for identification of potential functional mutations for the WT and the mutant and reveal the relationship between the receptor activity and TM dimerization via different interfaces. This strategy also allows us design a novel activating mutation in the WT (I537D) and a compensatory mutation in the V536E background eliminating its constitutive activity (S541G). We show both computationally and experimentally that single-point mutations in the TM region reshape the TM dimer ensemble and delineate the structural and dynamic determinants of spontaneous activation of PDGFRA via its TM domain. Our atomistic picture of the coupling between TM dimerization and PDGFRA activation corroborates the data obtained for other RTKs and provides a foundation for developing novel modulators of the pathological activity of PDGFRA.