Published on Fri Sep 10 2021

Mechanistic insight into light-dependent recognition of Timeless by Drosophila cryptochrome

Lin, C., Schneps, C. M., Chandrasekaran, S., Ganguly, A., Crane, B. R.

Cryptochrome (CRY) entrains the fly circadian clock by binding to Timeless (TIM) in light and triggering its degradation. Undocking of a helical C-terminal tail (CTT) in response to photoreduction of the CRY flavin cofactor

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Abstract

Cryptochrome (CRY) entrains the fly circadian clock by binding to Timeless (TIM) in light and triggering its degradation. Undocking of a helical C-terminal tail (CTT) in response to photoreduction of the CRY flavin cofactor gates TIM binding. A generally-applicable Select Western-blot-Free Tagged-protein Interaction (SWFTI) assay enables quantification of CRY binding to TIM in dark and light. The assay is utilized to study CRY variants with residue substitutions in the flavin pocket and correlate their TIM affinities with CTT undocking, as measured by pulse-dipolar ESR spectroscopy and evaluated by molecular dynamics simulations. CRY variants with the CTT removed or undocked bind TIM constitutively, whereas those incapable of photoreduction bind TIM weakly. In response to flavin redox state, two conserved histidine residues contribute to a robust on/off switch by mediating CTT interactions with the flavin pocket and TIM. Our approach provides an expeditious means to quantify protein-protein interactions and photoreceptor targeting.