Self-assembly properties of a model RING domain
RING domains act in a variety of essential cellular processes but have no general function ascribed to them. Here, we observe that purified arenaviral protein Z, constituted almost entirely by its RING domain, self-assembles in vitro into spherical structures that resemble functional bodies formed by Z in infected cells. By using a variety of biophysical methods we provide a thermodynamic and kinetic framework for the RING-dependent self-assembly of Z. Assembly appears coupled to substantial conformational reorganization and changes in zinc coordination of site II of the RING. Thus, the rate-limiting nature of conformational reorganization observed in the folding of monomeric proteins can also apply to the assembly of macromolecular scaffolds. These studies describe a unique mechanism of nonfibrillar homogeneous self-assembly and suggest a general function of RINGs in the formation of macromolecular scaffolds that are positioned to integrate biochemical processes in cells.