We have used small-angle scattering to study the calcium dependence of the interactions between calmodulin (CAM) and skeletal muscle myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), as well as the conformations of the complexes that form. Scattering data were measured from equimolar mixtures of a functional MLCK and CaM or a mutated CaM (B12QCaM) incompetent to bind Ca2+ in its N- terminal domain, with increasing Ca2+ concentrations. To evaluate differences between CaM-enzyme versus CaM-peptide interactions, similar Ca2+ titration experiments were performed using synthetic peptides based on the CaM-binding sequence from MLCK (MLCK-I). Our data show there are different determinants for CaM binding the isolated peptide sequence compared to CaM binding to the same sequences within the enzyme. For example, binding of either CaM or B12QCaM to the MLCK-I peptide is observed even in the presence of EGTA, whereas binding of CaM to the enzyme requires Ca2+. The peptide studies also show that the conformational collapse of CaM requires both the N and C domains of CaM to be competent for Ca2+ binding as well as interactions with each end of MLCK-I, and it occurs at ~2 mol of Ca2+/mol of CaM. We show that CaM binding to the MLCK enzyme begins at substoichiometric concentrations of Ca2+ (≤2 mol of Ca2+/mol of CAM), but that the final compact structure of CaM with the enzyme requires saturating Ca2+. In addition, MLCK enzyme does bind to 2Ca2+·B12QCaM, although this complex is more extended than the complex with native CaM. Our results support the hypothesis that CaM regulation of MLCK involves an initial binding step at less than saturating Ca2+ concentrations and a subsequent activation step at higher Ca2+ concentrations.
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