Unveiling the dimer/monomer propensities of Smad MH1-DNA complexes

Lidia Ruiz, Zuzanna Kaczmarska, Tiago Gomes, Eric Aragon, Carles Torner, Regina Freier, Blazej Baginski, Pau Martin-Malpartida, Natàlia de Martin Garrido, José A. Marquez, Tiago N. Cordeiro, Radoslaw Pluta, Maria J. Macias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Smad transcription factors are the main downstream effectors of the Transforming growth factor β superfamily (TGFβ) signalling network. The DNA complexes determined here by X-ray crystallography for the Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMP) activated Smad5 and Smad8 proteins reveal that all MH1 domains bind [GGC(GC)|(CG)] motifs similarly, although TGFβ-activated Smad2/3 and Smad4 MH1 domains bind as monomers whereas Smad1/5/8 form helix-swapped dimers. Dimers and monomers are also present in solution, as revealed by NMR. To decipher the characteristics that defined these dimers, we designed chimeric MH1 domains and characterized them using X-ray crystallography. We found that swapping the loop1 between TGFβ- and BMP- activated MH1 domains switches the dimer/monomer propensities. When we scanned the distribution of Smad-bound motifs in ChIP-Seq peaks (Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing) in Smad-responsive genes, we observed specific site clustering and spacing depending on whether the peaks correspond to BMP- or TGFβ-responsive genes. We also identified significant correlations between site distribution and monomer or dimer propensities. We propose that the MH1 monomer or dimer propensity of Smads contributes to the distinct motif selection genome-wide and together with the MH2 domain association, help define the composition of R-Smad/Smad4 trimeric complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-646
Number of pages15
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • 5GC-motifs
  • BMP signaling
  • Domain-swapping
  • MH1 domain
  • Protein-DNA
  • Smad
  • Smad chimeras
  • Smad5
  • Smad8
  • Transcription factor


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