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Biochemical and structural analyses reveal that the tumor suppressor neurofibromin (NF1) forms a high-affinity dimer...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Biological Chemistry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1105 to 1119

Neurofibromin is a tumor suppressor encoded by the NF1 gene, which is mutated in Rasopathy disease neurofibromatosis type I. Defects in NF1 lead to aberrant signaling through the RAS–mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway due to disruption of the neurofibromin GTPase-activating function on RAS family small GTPases. Very little is known about the function of most of the neurofibromin protein; to date, biochemical and structural data exist only for its GAP domain and a region containing a Sec-PH motif. To better understand the role of this large protein, here we carried out a series of biochemical and biophysical experiments, including size-exclusion chromatography–multiangle light scattering (SEC-MALS), small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering, and analytical ultracentrifugation, indicating that full-length neurofibromin forms a high-affinity dimer. We observed that neurofibromin dimerization also occurs in human cells and likely has biological and clinical implications. Analysis of purified full-length and truncated neurofibromin variants by negative-stain EM revealed the overall architecture of the dimer and predicted the potential interactions that contribute to the dimer interface. We could reconstitute structures resembling high-affinity full-length dimers by mixing N- and C-terminal protein domains in vitro. The reconstituted neurofibromin was capable of GTPase activation in vitro, and co-expression of the two domains in human cells effectively recapitulated the activity of full-length neurofibromin. Taken together, these results suggest how neurofibromin dimers might form and be stabilized within the cell.