Classic FYVE zinc-finger domains recognize the phosphoinositide signal PtdIns3P and share the basic (R/K)1(R/K)HHCR6 (single-letter amino acid codes) consensus sequence. This domain is present in predicted PtdIns3P 5-kinases and lipases from Arabidopsis thaliana. Other Arabidopsis proteins, named PRAF, consist of a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain, a regulator of chromosome condensation (RCC1) guanine nucleotide exchange factor repeat domain, and a variant FYVE domain containing an Asn residue and a Tyr residue at positions corresponding to the PtdIns3P-interacting His4 and Arg6 of the basic motif. Dot-blot and liposome-binding assays were used in vitro to examine the phospholipid-binding ability of isolated PRAF domains. Whereas the PH domain preferentially bound PtdIns(4,5)P2, the variant FYVE domain showed a weaker charge-dependent binding of phosphoinositides. In contrast, specificity for PtdIns3P was obtained by mutagenic conversion of the variant into a classic FYVE domain (Asn4,Tyr6 → His4,Arg6). Separate substitutions of the variant residues were not sufficient to impose preferential binding of PtdIns3P, suggesting a co-operative effect of these residues in binding. A biochemical function for PRAF was indicated by its ability to catalyse guanine nucleotide exchange on some of the small GTPases of the Rab family, permitting a discussion of the biological roles of plant FYVE proteins and their regulation by phosphoinositides.

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