Sequence and structural variations determining the recruitment of WNK kinases to the KLHL3 E3 ligase

Zhuoyao Chen, Jinwei Zhang, Adrián Rafael Murillo-de-Ozores, Maria Castañeda-Bueno, Francesca D'Amico, Raphael Heilig, Charlotte Manning, Fiona J. Sorrell, Vincenzo D'Angiolella, Roman Fischer, Monique Mulder, Gerardo Gamba, Dario R. Alessi, Alex N. Bullock (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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The BTB-Kelch protein KLHL3 is a Cullin3-dependent E3 ligase that mediates the ubiquitin-dependent degradation of kinases WNK1-4 to control blood pressure and cell volume. A crystal structure of KLHL3 has defined its binding to an acidic degron motif containing a PXXP sequence that is strictly conserved in WNK1, WNK2 and WNK4. Mutations in the second proline abrograte the interaction causing the hypertension syndrome pseudohypoaldosteronism type II. WNK3 shows a diverged degron motif containing four amino acid substitutions that remove the PXXP motif raising questions as to the mechanism of its binding. To understand this atypical interaction, we determined the crystal structure of the KLHL3 Kelch domain in complex with a WNK3 peptide. The electron density enabled the complete 11-mer WNK-family degron motif to be traced for the first time revealing several conserved features not captured in previous work, including additional salt bridge and hydrogen bond interactions. Overall, the WNK3 peptide adopted a conserved binding pose except for a subtle shift to accommodate bulkier amino acid substitutions at the binding interface. At the centre, the second proline was substituted by WNK3 Thr541, providing a unique phosphorylatable residue among the WNK-family degrons. Fluorescence polarisation and structural modelling experiments revealed that its phosphorylation would abrogate the KLHL3 interaction similarly to hypertension-causing mutations. Together, these data reveal how the KLHL3 Kelch domain can accommodate the binding of multiple WNK isoforms and highlight a potential regulatory mechanism for the recruitment of WNK3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-675
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number5
Early online date18 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022


  • ubiquitin ligases
  • degron
  • protein-serine-threonine kinases
  • hypertension
  • mutation
  • crystallography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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