Structural and functional studies of proteins from the Hippo signalling pathway

  • Claire Cherrett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The paralogous multi-functional adaptor proteins YAP and TAZ are nuclear effectors of the Hippo pathway, a central regulator of developmental organ size control, tissue homeostasis and tumour suppression. YAP/TAZ target the TEAD transcription factor family to promote cell survival and inhibit apoptosis. TEAD proteins contain a DNAbinding domain and a YAP/TAZ interaction domain. PCR analysis of medaka fish TEAD cDNA revealed the presence of alternative TEAD splice-forms with variations at the C-terminus of the DNA-binding domain. Structural analysis indicated the YAPbinding domain of TEAD proteins is folded and globular. NMR spectroscopy showed that the TEAD binding domain of YAP does not contain secondary structure. YAP and TAZ both contain WW domains, which are small protein-protein interaction modules. Two YAP isoforms are known, YAP1 and YAP2 that contain one and two WW domains, respectively. To date, only a single WW isoform of TAZ has been described. PCR analysis of medaka TAZ cDNA identified both single WW and tandem WW isoforms of TAZ. NMR spectroscopy was used to characterise structural, conformational, and peptide binding features of the tandem WW domains from YAP and TAZ. The YAP WW2 solution structure confirms that the domain has the canonical anti-parallel β-sheet WW fold. WW1 of YAP and both WW domains of TAZ undergo conformational exchange. The region linking the two WW domains is flexible and allows interaction of both WW domains with peptides containing single and dual PPxY binding motifs. In addition to YAP and TAZ, tandem WW domains are also present in the core and upstream Hippo pathway proteins Salvador and Kibra. Both proteins contain one atypical WW domain; the tandem WW domains of these two proteins are unstable. Understanding structure and function of Hippo pathway components could contribute to drug development and will also contribute to knowledge of protein folding and interactions.
Date of Award1 Sept 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStefan Bagby (Supervisor) & Jean Van Den Elsen (Supervisor)


  • Kibra
  • Salvador
  • YAP
  • WW domains
  • TAZ
  • TEAD
  • protein structure
  • Hippo pathway
  • NMR
  • x-ray crystallography

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