An interdomain helix in IRE1α mediates the conformational change required for the sensor's activation

Daniela Ricci, Stephen Tutton, Ilaria Marrocco, Mingjie Ying, Daniel Blumenthal, Daniela Eletto, Jade Vargas, Sarah Boyle, Hossein Fazelinia, Lei Qian, Krishna Suresh, Deanne Taylor, James C. Paton, Adrienne W. Paton, Chih Hang Anthony Tang, Chih Chi Andrew Hu, Ravi Radhakrishnan, Tali Gidalevitz, Yair Argon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The unfolded protein response plays an evolutionarily conserved role in homeostasis, and its dysregulation often leads to human disease, including diabetes and cancer. IRE1α is a major transducer that conveys endoplasmic reticulum stress via biochemical signals, yet major gaps persist in our understanding of how the detection of stress is converted to one of several molecular outcomes. It is known that, upon sensing unfolded proteins via its endoplasmic reticulum luminal domain, IRE1α dimerizes and then oligomerizes (often visualized as clustering). Once assembled, the kinase domain trans-autophosphorylates a neighboring IRE1α, inducing a conformational change that activates the RNase effector domain. However, the full details of how the signal is transmitted are not known. Here, we describe a previously unrecognized role for helix αK, located between the kinase and RNase domains of IRE1α, in conveying this critical conformational change. Using constructs containing mutations within this interdomain helix, we show that distinct substitutions affect oligomerization, kinase activity, and the RNase activity of IRE1α differentially. Furthermore, using both biochemical and computational methods, we found that different residues at position 827 specify distinct conformations at distal sites of the protein, such as in the RNase domain. Of importance, an RNase-inactive mutant, L827P, can still dimerize with wildtype monomers, but this mutation inactivates the wildtype molecule and renders leukemic cells more susceptible to stress. We surmise that helix αK is a conduit for the activation of IRE1α in response to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100781
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'An interdomain helix in IRE1α mediates the conformational change required for the sensor's activation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this