Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Drosophila melanogaster heterochromatin protein 1a (HP1a) is essential for compacted heterochromatin structure and the associated gene silencing. Its chromo shadow domain (CSD) is well known for binding to peptides that contain a PXVXL motif. Heterochromatin protein 2 (HP2) is a non-histone chromosomal protein that associates with HP1a in the pericentric heterochromatin, telomeres, and the fourth chromosome. Using NMR spectroscopy, fluorescence polarization, and site-directed mutagenesis, we identified an LCVKI motif in HP2 that binds to the HP1a CSD. The binding affinity of the HP2 fragment is approximately two orders of magnitude higher than that of peptides from PIWI (with a PRVKV motif), AF10 (with a PLVVL motif), or CG15356 (with LYPLL and LSIVA motifs). To delineate differential interactions of the HP1a CSD, we characterized its structure, backbone dynamics, and dimerization constant. We found that the dimerization constant is bracketed by the affinities of HP2 and PIWI, which dock to the same HP1a homodimer surface. This suggests that HP2, but not PIWI, interaction can drive the homodimerization of HP1a. Interestingly, the integrity of the disordered C-terminal extension (CTE) of HP1a is essential for discriminatory binding, whereas swapping the PXVXL motifs does not confer specificity. Serine phosphorylation at the peptide binding surface of the CSD is thought to regulate heterochromatin assembly. Glutamic acid substitution at these sites destabilizes HP1a dimers, but improves the interaction with both binding partners. Our studies underscore the importance of CSD dimerization and cooperation with the CTE in forming distinct complexes of HP1a.

Original publication




Journal article


Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology

Publication Date





1084 - 1096


Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Animals, Drosophila melanogaster, Peptide Fragments, Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone, Recombinant Proteins, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Substrate Specificity, Dimerization, Models, Molecular