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Hydrophobic Blocks Facilitate Lipid Compatibility and Translocon Recognition of Transmembrane Protein Sequences

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journal contribution
posted on 02.02.2016, 16:15 authored by Tracy A. Stone, Nina Schiller, Gunnar von Heijne, Charles M. Deber
Biophysical hydrophobicity scales suggest that partitioning of a protein segment from an aqueous phase into a membrane is governed by its perceived segmental hydrophobicity but do not establish specifically (i) how the segment is identified in vivo for translocon-mediated insertion or (ii) whether the destination lipid bilayer is biochemically receptive to the inserted sequence. To examine the congruence between these dual requirements, we designed and synthesized a library of Lys-tagged peptides of a core length sufficient to span a bilayer but with varying patterns of sequence, each composed of nine Leu residues, nine Ser residues, and one (central) Trp residue. We found that peptides containing contiguous Leu residues (Leu-block peptides, e.g., LL­L­L­L­L­L­L­L­W­S­S­S­S­S­S­S­SS), in comparison to those containing discontinuous stretches of Leu residues (non-Leu-block peptides, e.g., SL­S­L­L­S­L­S­S­W­S­L­L­S­L­S­L­LS), displayed greater helicity (circular dichroism spectroscopy), traveled slower during sodium dodecyl sulfate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, had longer reverse phase high-performance liquid chromatography retention times on a C-18 column, and were helical when reconstituted into 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylglycero-3-phosphocholine liposomes, each observation indicating superior lipid compatibility when a Leu-block is present. These parameters were largely paralleled in a biological membrane insertion assay using microsomal membranes from dog pancreas endoplasmic reticulum, where we found only the Leu-block sequences successfully inserted; intriguingly, an amphipathic peptide (SL­L­S­S­L­L­S­S­W­L­L­S­S­L­L­S­SL; Leu face, Ser face) with biophysical properties similar to those of Leu-block peptides failed to insert. Our overall results identify local sequence lipid compatibility rather than average hydrophobicity as a principal determinant of transmembrane segment potential, while demonstrating that further subtleties of hydrophobic and helical patterning, such as circumferential hydrophobicity in Leu-block segments, promote translocon-mediated insertion.