Functional Contributions of Noncysteine Residues within the Cystine Knots of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Subunits

Ryan J. Darling, Jason A. Wilken, Amanda K. Miller-Lindholm, Teresa M. Urlacher, Raymond W. Ruddon, Simon A. Sherman, Elliott Bedows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a heterodimeric member of a family of cystine knot-containing proteins that contain the consensus sequences Cys-X1-Gly-X2-Cys and Cys-X3-Cys. Previously, we characterized the contributions that cystine residues of the hCG subunit cystine knots make in folding, assembly, and bioactivity. Here, we determined the contributions that noncysteine residues make in hCG folding, secretion, and assembly. When the X1, X2, and X3 residues of hCG-α and -β were substituted by swapping their respective cystine knot motifs, the resulting chimeras appeared to fold correctly and were efficiently secreted. However, assembly of the chimeras with their wild type partner was almost completely abrogated. No single amino acid substitution completely accounted for the assembly inhibition, although the X2 residue made the greatest individual contribution. Analysis by tryptic mapping, high performance liquid chromatography, and SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed that substitution of the central Gly in the Cys-X 1-Gly-X2-Cys sequence of either the α- or β-subunit cystine knot resulted in non-native disulfide bond formation and subunit misfolding. This occurred even when the most conservative change possible (Gly → Ala) was made. From these studies we conclude that all three "X" residues within the hCG cystine knots are collectively, but not individually, required for the formation of assembly-competent hCG subunits and that the invariant Gly residue is required for efficient cystine knot formation and subunit folding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10692-10699
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 6 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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