Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Arun Malhotra

Second Committee Member

Murray P Deutscher

Third Committee Member

Thomas K Harris

Fourth Committee Member

Rajeev Prabhakar


Phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase-1 (PDK1) plays an integral role in signaling cellular growth and proliferation, one that's dependent on its ability to autophosphorylate Ser-241 in its T-loop. This process appears to have a strict requirement for its C-terminal pleckstrin homology (PH) domain. Thus, the overall objective of this work was to determine the mechanism by which the PH domain induces an active kinase conformation in unphosphorylated PDK1, capable of Ser-241 autophosphorylation. First, computational modeling and protein cross linking studies were combined with site-directed mutagenesis and kinetic assays in order to provide initial assessment of how the PH domain scaffolds Ser-241 autophosphorylation. A significant number of contacts were identified between the enigmatic "N-bud" region of the PH domain and the kinase domain. Specifically, these studies implicated Glu-432 and Glu-453 of the N-bud region of the PH domain that bind and serve as mimics of the phosphorylated Ser-241 in the T-loop and the phosphorylated C-terminal tail of PDK1 substrates, respectively. Next, a novel method for protein trans-splicing of the regulatory and catalytic kinase domains of PDK1 was developed. The method utilizes the N- and C-terminal split inteins of the gene dnaE from Nostoc punctiforme [(N)NpuDnaE] and Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803 [(C)SspDnaE], respectively. The cross-reacting KINASE(AEY)-(N)NpuDnaE-His6 and GST-His6-(C)SspDnaE-(CMN)PH fusion constructs generated full length spliced-PDK1 with kobs = (2.8 +- 0.3) x 10-5 s-1. Finally, NMR was used to further characterize the structural and dynamical properties of the PH domain in both its isolated form and in full length PDK1. Whereas, it was not possible to obtain chemical shift assignments of any backbone or side chain nuclear resonances, methods were optimized for 2H,13C,15N-isotopic labeling of the recombinant PH domain. Furthermore, the protein trans-splicing method was significantly improved and utilized for segmental isotopic labeling of the PH domain in full length PDK1. These new findings and developments may provide specific insight and technological improvements towards future studies aimed to better understand and target autoinhibited conformations of PDK1 for translational purposes.


Protein Trans-splicing; PH Domain; PDK1; Kinase; NMR; Protein Structure; Autoinhibition; Enzyme Activity; Autoactivation; Phosphorylation