Structural basis for the activation and target site specificity of CDC7 kinase

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CDC7 is an essential Ser/Thr kinase that acts upon the replicative helicase throughout the S phase of the cell cycle and is activated by DBF4. Here, we present crystal structures of a highly active human CDC7-DBF4 construct. The structures reveal a zinc-finger domain at the end of the kinase insert 2 that pins the CDC7 activation loop to motif M of DBF4 and the C lobe of CDC7. These interactions lead to ordering of the substrate-binding platform and full opening of the kinase active site. In a co-crystal structure with a mimic of MCM2 Ser40 phosphorylation target, the invariant CDC7 residues Arg373 and Arg380 engage phospho-Ser41 at substrate P+1 position, explaining the selectivity of the S-phase kinase for Ser/Thr residues followed by a pre-phosphorylated or an acidic residue. Our results clarify the role of DBF4 in activation of CDC7 and elucidate the structural basis for recognition of its preferred substrates.

Journal details

Journal Structure
Volume 28
Issue number 8
Pages 954-962.e4
Available online
Publication date