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Ober, Veronica; Githure, George B; Volpato Santos, Yuri; Becker, Sidney; Moya Muñoz, Gabriel G.; Basquin, Jérôme; Schwede, Frank; Lorentzen, Esben; Boshart, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-5070-2663 (2023): Purine nucleosides replace cAMP in allosteric regulation of PKA in trypanosomatid pathogens. eLife. ISSN 2050-084X

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Cyclic nucleotide binding domains (CNB) confer allosteric regulation by cAMP or cGMP to many signalling proteins, including PKA and PKG. PKA of phylogenetically distant Trypanosoma is the first exception as it is cyclic nucleotide independent and responsive to nucleoside analogues (Bachmaier et al., 2019). Here we show that natural nucleosides inosine, guanosine and adenosine are nanomolar affinity CNB ligands and activators of PKA orthologs of the important tropical pathogens T. brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania. The sequence and structural determinants of binding affinity, -specificity and kinase activation of PKAR were established by structure-activity relation (SAR) analysis, co-crystal structures and mutagenesis. Substitution of 2-3 amino acids in the binding sites is sufficient for conversion of CNB domains from nucleoside to cyclic nucleotide specificity. In addition, a trypanosomatid-specific C-terminal helix (αD) is required for high affinity binding to CNB-B. The αD helix functions as a lid of the binding site that shields ligands from solvent. Selectivity of guanosine for CNB-B and of adenosine for CNB-A results in synergistic kinase activation at low nanomolar concentration. PKA pulldown from rapid lysis establishes guanosine as the predominant ligand in vivo in T. brucei bloodstream forms, whereas guanosine and adenosine seem to synergize in the procyclic developmental stage in the insect vector. We discuss the versatile use of CNB domains in evolution and recruitment of PKA for novel nucleoside-mediated signalling.

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