Article

Crystallizing Transmembrane Peptides in Lipidic Mesophases

Membrane Structural and Functional Biology Group, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, and School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
Biophysical Journal (Impact Factor: 3.97). 08/2010; 99(3):L23-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.05.011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Structure determination of membrane proteins by crystallographic means has been facilitated by crystallization in lipidic mesophases. It has been suggested, however, that this so-called in meso method, as originally implemented, would not apply to small protein targets having </=4 transmembrane crossings. In our study, the hypothesis that the inherent flexibility of the mesophase would enable crystallogenesis of small proteins was tested using a transmembrane pentadecapeptide, linear gramicidin, which produced structure-grade crystals. This result suggests that the in meso method should be considered as a viable means for high-resolution structure determination of integral membrane peptides, many of which are predicted to be coded for in the human genome.

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    ABSTRACT: Gramicidin is an apolar pentadecapeptide antibiotic consisting of alternating D-and L-amino acids. It functions, in part, by creating pores in membranes of susceptible cells rendering them leaky to monovalent cations. The peptide should be able to traverse the host membrane either as a double stranded, intertwined double helix (DSDH) or as a head-to-head single stranded helix (HHSH). Current structure models are based on macromolecular X-ray crystallography (MX) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). However, the HHSH form has only been observed by NMR. The shape and size of the different gramicidin conformations differ. We speculated therefore that reconstituting it into a lipidic mesophase with bilayers of different microstructures would preferentially stabilize one form over the other. By using such mesophases for in meso crystallogenesis the expectation was that at least one would generate crystals of gramicidin in the HHSH form for structure determination by MX. This was tested using commercial and in-house synthesised lipids that support in meso crystallogenesis. Lipid acyl chain lengths were varied from 14 to 18 carbons to provide mesophases with a range of bilayer thicknesses. Unexpectedly, all lipids produced high quality, structure-grade crystals with gramicidin only in the DSDH conformation.
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