Interactions and structural analysis of the zinc -binding motif in decorin, a small leucine rich proteoglycan in extracellular matrix

Vivian Wei-Chung Yang, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Decorin, a dermatan/chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan, is ubiquitously distributed in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of mammals. Decorin belongs to the small leucine rich proteoglycan (SLRP) family, a proteoglycan family characterized by a core protein dominated by Leucine Rich Repeat motifs. The decorin core protein appears to mediate the binding of decorin to ECM molecules, such as collagens and fibronectin. It is believed that the interactions of decorin with these ECM molecules contribute to the regulation of ECM assembly, cell adhesions, and cell proliferation. These basic biological processes play critical roles during embryonic development and wound healing and are altered in pathological conditions such as fibrosis and tumorgenesis. In this dissertation, we discover that decorin core protein can bind to Zn2+ ions with high affinity. Zinc is an essential trace element in mammals. Zn2+ ions play a catalytic role in the activation of many enzymes and a structural role in the stabilization of protein conformation. By examining purified recombinant decorin and its core protein fragments for Zn2+ binding activity using Zn2+-chelating column chromatography and Zn2+-equilibrium dialysis approaches, we have located the Zn2+ binding domain to the N-terminal sequence of the decorin core protein. The decorin N-terminal domain appears to contain two Zn2+ binding sites with similar high binding affinity. The sequence of the decorin N-terminal domain does not resemble any other reported zinc-binding motifs and, therefore, represents a novel Zn 2+ binding motif. By investigating the influence of Zn2+ ions on decorin binding interactions, we found a novel Zn2+ dependent interaction with fibrinogen, the major plasma protein in blood clots. Furthermore, a recombinant peptide (MD4) consisting of a 41 amino acid sequence of mouse decorin N-terminal domain can prolong thrombin induced fibrinogen/fibrin clot formation. This suggests that in the presence of Zn2+ the decorin N-terminal domain has an anticoagulation activity. The changed Zn2+-binding activities of the truncated MD4 peptides and site-directed mutagenesis generated mutant peptides revealed that the functional MD4 peptide might contain both a structural zinc-binding site in the cysteine cluster region and a catalytic zinc site that could be created by the flanking sequences of the cysteine cluster region. A model of a loop-like structure for MD4 peptide is proposed.

Subject Area

Biochemistry|Biomedical research

Recommended Citation

Yang, Vivian Wei-Chung, "Interactions and structural analysis of the zinc -binding motif in decorin, a small leucine rich proteoglycan in extracellular matrix" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9951904.