Background: Mutations in the thrombopoietin receptor (MPL) may activate relevant pathways and lead to chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). The mechanisms of MPL activation remain elusive because of a lack of experimental structures. Modern computational biology techniques were utilized to explore the mechanisms of MPL protein activation due to various mutations. Results: Transmembrane (TM) domain predictions, homology modeling, ab initio protein structure prediction, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to build structural dynamic models of wild-type and four clinically observed mutants of MPL. The simulation results suggest that S505 and W515 are important in keeping the TM domain in its correct position within the membrane. Mutations at either of these two positions cause movement of the TM domain, altering the conformation of the nearby intracellular domain in unexpected ways, and may cause the unwanted constitutive activation of MPL's kinase partner, JAK2. Conclusions: Our findings represent the first full-scale molecular dynamics simulations of the wild-type and clinically observed mutants of the MPL protein, a critical element of the MPL-JAK2-STAT signaling pathway. In contrast to usual explanations for the activation mechanism that are based on the relative translational movement between rigid domains of MPL, our results suggest that mutations within the TM region could result in conformational changes including tilt and rotation (azimuthal) angles along the membrane axis. Such changes may significantly alter the conformation of the adjacent and intrinsically flexible intracellular domain. Hence, caution should be exercised when interpreting experimental evidence based on rigid models of cytokine receptors or similar systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)