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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 15;99(21):13504-9. Epub 2002 Oct 4.

Small heat-shock proteins regulate membrane lipid polymorphism.

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  • 1Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Thermal stress in living cells produces multiple changes that ultimately affect membrane structure and function. We report that two members of the family of small heat-shock proteins (sHsp) (alpha-crystallin and Synechocystis HSP17) have stabilizing effects on model membranes formed of synthetic and cyanobacterial lipids. In anionic membranes of dimyristoylphosphatidylglycerol and dimyristoylphosphatidylserine, both HSP17 and alpha-crystallin strongly stabilize the liquid-crystalline state. Evidence from infrared spectroscopy indicates that lipid/sHsp interactions are mediated by the polar headgroup region and that the proteins strongly affect the hydrophobic core. In membranes composed of the nonbilayer lipid dielaidoylphosphatidylethanolamine, both HSP17 and alpha-crystallin inhibit the formation of inverted hexagonal structure and stabilize the bilayer liquid-crystalline state, suggesting that sHsps can modulate membrane lipid polymorphism. In membranes composed of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol and phosphatidylglycerol (both enriched with unsaturated fatty acids) isolated from Synechocystis thylakoids, HSP17 and alpha-crystallin increase the molecular order in the fluid-like state. The data show that the nature of sHsp/membrane interactions depends on the lipid composition and extent of lipid unsaturation, and that sHsps can regulate membrane fluidity. We infer from these results that the association between sHsps and membranes may constitute a general mechanism that preserves membrane integrity during thermal fluctuations.

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