Flexibility of the Sec13/31 Cage is Influenced by the Sec31 C-terminal Disordered Domain

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In COPII mediated vesicle formation, Sec13/Sec31 heterotetramers play a role in organizing the membranes into a spherical vesicle. There they oligomerize into a cage that interacts with the other COPII proteins to direct vesicle formation and concentrate cargo into a bud. In this role they must be flexible to accommodate different sizes and shapes of cargo, but also have elements that provide rigidity to help deform the membrane. Here we characterize the influence the C-terminal disordered region of Sec31 has on cage flexibility and rigidity. After deleting this region (residues 820–1220), we characterized Sec13/Sec31ΔC heterotetramers biophysically and structurally through cryo-EM. Our results show that Sec13/31ΔC self-assembles into canonical cuboctahedral cages in vitro at buffer conditions similar to wild type. The distribution of cage sizes indicated that unlike the wild type, Sec13/31ΔC cages have a more homogeneous geometry. However, the structure of cuboctahedrons exhibited more conformational heterogeneity than wild type. Through localized reconstruction of cage vertices and molecular dynamics flexible fitting we found a new hinge for the flexing of Sec31 β-propeller domain and more flexibility of the previously known hinge. Together, these results show that the C-terminal region of Sec31 regulates the flexing of other domains such that flexibility and rigidity are not compromised during transport of large and/or asymmetric cargo.

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Journal of Structural Biology, v. 204, issue 2, p. 250-260