Structural Insight into DNA-Dependent Activation of Human Metalloprotease Spartan

Faxiang Li, Joanna E. Raczynska, Zhe Chen, Hongtao Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The DNA-dependent metalloprotease Spartan (SPRTN) cleaves DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs) and protects cells from DPC-induced genome instability. Germline mutations of SPRTN are linked to human Ruijs-Aalfs syndrome (RJALS) characterized by progeria and early-onset hepatocellular carcinoma. The mechanism of DNA-mediated activation of SPRTN is not understood. Here, we report the crystal structure of the human SPRTN SprT domain bound to single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). Our structure reveals a Zn 2+ -binding sub-domain (ZBD) in SprT that shields its active site located in the metalloprotease sub-domain (MPD). The narrow catalytic groove between MPD and ZBD only permits cleavage of flexible substrates. The ZBD contains an ssDNA-binding site, with a DNA-base-binding pocket formed by aromatic residues. Mutations of ssDNA-binding residues diminish the protease activity of SPRTN. We propose that the ZBD contributes to the ssDNA specificity of SPRTN, restricts the access of globular substrates, and positions DPCs, which may need to be partially unfolded, for optimal cleavage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3336-3346.e4
JournalCell Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 19 2019


  • DNA repair
  • DNA-protein crosslinks
  • Spartan
  • Zn binding
  • genome instability
  • metalloprotease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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