Research Article

Structural basis for Notch1 engagement of Delta-like 4

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Science  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6224, pp. 847-853
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261093

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An interaction that guides cell fate

Notch signaling is important in cell fate determination in mammals. Signaling is initiated when the extracellular domain of the transmembrane Notch protein on one cell binds to a surface ligand on another cell. Luca et al. report the crystal structure of the interacting regions of Notch and the Delta-like ligand DLL-4. The Notch protein is modified by O-linked glycan addition, and this is required for signaling. The structure shows two interaction interfaces. A glycan anchors the less conserved interface, which potentially provides a flexible way of regulating Notch interactions during development.

Science, this issue p. 847


Notch receptors guide mammalian cell fate decisions by engaging the proteins Jagged and Delta-like (DLL). The 2.3 angstrom resolution crystal structure of the interacting regions of the Notch1-DLL4 complex reveals a two-site, antiparallel binding orientation assisted by Notch1 O-linked glycosylation. Notch1 epidermal growth factor–like repeats 11 and 12 interact with the DLL4 Delta/Serrate/Lag-2 (DSL) domain and module at the N-terminus of Notch ligands (MNNL) domains, respectively. Threonine and serine residues on Notch1 are functionalized with O-fucose and O-glucose, which act as surrogate amino acids by making specific, and essential, contacts to residues on DLL4. The elucidation of a direct chemical role for O-glycans in Notch1 ligand engagement demonstrates how, by relying on posttranslational modifications of their ligand binding sites, Notch proteins have linked their functional capacity to developmentally regulated biosynthetic pathways.

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