: The tetrameric tumor suppressor p53 represents a great challenge for 3D-structural analysis due to its high degree of intrinsic disorder (ca. 40%). We aim to shed light on the structural and functional roles of p53's C-terminal region in full-length, wild-type human p53 tetramer and their importance for DNA binding. For this, we employed complementary techniques of structural mass spectrometry (MS) in an integrated approach with computational modeling. Our results show no major conformational differences in p53 between DNA-bound and DNA-free states, but reveal a substantial compaction of p53's C-terminal region. This supports the proposed mechanism of unspecific DNA binding to the C-terminal region of p53 prior to transcription initiation by specific DNA binding to the core domain of p53. The synergies between complementary structural MS techniques and computational modeling as pursued in our integrative approach is envisioned to serve as general strategy for studying intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and intrinsically disordered region (IDRs).
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