A SAXS-based ensemble model of the native and phosphorylated regulatory domain of the CFTR.
The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), the defective protein in cystic fibrosis, is an anion channel activated by protein kinase A phosphorylation. The regulatory domain (RD) of CFTR has multiple phosphorylation sites, and is responsible for channel activation. This domain is intrinsically disordered, rendering the structural analysis a difficult task, as high-resolution techniques are barely applicable. In this work, we obtained a biophysical characterization of the native and phosphorylated RD in solution by employing complementary structural methods. The native RD has a gyration radius of 3.25 nm, and a maximum molecular dimension of 11.4 nm, larger than expected for a globular protein of the same molecular mass. Phosphorylation causes compaction of the structure, yielding a significant reduction of the gyration radius, to 2.92 nm, and on the maximum molecular dimension to 10.2 nm. Using an ensemble optimization method, we were able to generate a low-resolution, three-dimensional model of the native and the phosphorylated RD based on small-angle X-ray scattering data. We have obtained the first experiment-based model of the CFTR regulatory domain, which will be useful to understand the molecular mechanisms of normal and pathological CFTR functioning.