[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Avicins, a family of triterpenoid saponins from Acacia victoriae, can regulate the innate stress response in human cells. Their ability to induce apoptosis in transformed cells makes them potential anticancer agents. We report that avicins can form channels in membranes. The conductance reached a steady state after each addition, indicating a dynamic equilibrium between avicin in solution and in the membrane. The high power dependence (up to 10) of the membrane conductance on the avicin concentration indicates the formation of multimeric channels, consistent with the estimated pore radius of 1.1 nm. This radius is too small to allow protein flux across the mitochondrial outer membrane, a process known to initiate apoptosis. Channel formation is lost when avicin's amphipathic side chain is removed, implicating this as the channel-forming region. A small difference in this side chain results in strong cholesterol dependence of channel formation in avicin G that is not found in avicin D. In neutral membranes, avicin channels are nonselective, but negatively-charged lipids confer cation selectivity (5:1, K(+):Cl(-)), indicating that phospholipids form part of the permeation pathway. Avicin channels in the mitochondrial outer membrane may favor apoptosis by altering the potential across this membrane and the intermembrane space pH.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The process of insertion of intrinsic proteins into phospholipid membranes conjures up the thought of enormous energy barriers but is a routine occurrence in cells. Proteinaceous complexes responsible for protein targeting/translocation/insertion into membranes have been studied intensively. However, the mitochondrial voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC), can insert into phospholipid membranes by an auto-catalytic process called "auto-directed insertion." This process results in an oriented insertion of VDAC channels and an increase in insertion rate per unit area of 10 orders of magnitude. Here we report that VDAC catalyzes the insertion of PorA/C1 and KcsA by increasing their calculated insertion rate per unit area by 9 orders of magnitude with no detectable effect on the insertion of alpha-hemolysin. This was measured as a reduction in the delay before the first insertion of these proteins. Gramicidin and PorA/C1 accelerate the calculated insertion rate per unit area of VDAC by 8 and 9 orders of magnitude, respectively. Only PorA/C1 increases the overall rate of VDAC insertion (50-fold) over the self-catalyzed rate. Our results indicate that catalyzed insertion of proteins into phospholipid membranes does not arise simply from disturbance of the phospholipid membrane because it shows strong specificity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have analyzed voltage-dependent anion-selective channel (VDAC) gating on the assumption that the states occupied by the channel are determined mainly by their electrostatic energy. The voltage dependence of VDAC gating both in the presence and in the absence of a salt activity gradient was explained just by invoking electrostatic interactions. A model describing this energy in the main VDAC states has been developed. On the basis of the model, we have considered how external factors cause the redistribution of the channels among their conformational states. We propose that there is a difference in the electrostatic interaction between the voltage sensor and fixed charge within the channel when the former is located in the cis side of membrane as opposed to the trans. This could be the main cause of the shift in the probability curve. The theory describes satisfactorily the experimental data (Zizi et al., Biophys. J. 1998. 75:704-713) and explains some peculiarities of VDAC gating. The asymmetry of the probability curve was related to the apparent location of the VDAC voltage sensor in the open state. By analyzing published experimental data, we concluded that this apparent location is influenced by the diffusion potential. Also discussed is the possibility that VDAC gating at high voltage may be better described by assuming that the mobile charge consists of two parts that have to overcome different energetic barriers in the channel-closing process.