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Biochemistry. 1991 Jul 23;30(29):7171-80.

Effects of melittin on molecular dynamics and Ca-ATPase activity in sarcoplasmic reticulum membranes: electron paramagnetic resonance.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis 55455.


We have performed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) experiments on nitroxide spin labels incorporated into rabbit skeletal sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), in order to investigate the physical and functional interactions between melittin, a small basic membrane-binding peptide, and the Ca-ATPase of SR. Melittin binding to SR substantially inhibits Ca(2+)-dependent ATPase activity at 25 degrees C, with half-maximal inhibition at 9 mol of melittin bound per mole of Ca-ATPase. Saturation transfer EPR (ST-EPR) of maleimide spin-labeled Ca-ATPase showed that melittin decreases the submillisecond rotational mobility of the enzyme, with a 4-fold increase in the effective rotational correlation time (tau r) at a melittin/Ca-ATPase mole ratio of 10:1. This decreased rotational motion is consistent with melittin-induced aggregation of the Ca-ATPase. Conventional EPR was used to measure the submicrosecond rotational dynamics of spin-labeled stearic acid probes incorporated into SR. Melittin binding to SR at a melittin/Ca-ATPase mole ratio of 10:1 decreases lipid hydrocarbon chain mobility (fluidity) 25% near the surface of the membrane, but only 5% near the center of the bilayer. This gradient effect of melittin on SR fluidity suggests that melittin interacts primarily with the membrane surface. For all of these melittin effects (on enzymatic activity, protein mobility, and fluidity), increasing the ionic strength lessened the effect of melittin but did not alleviate it entirely. This is consistent with a melittin-SR interaction characterized by both hydrophobic and electrostatic forces. Since the effect of melittin on lipid fluidity alone is too small to account for the large inhibition of Ca-ATPase rotational mobility and enzymatic activity, we propose that melittin inhibits the ATPase primarily through its capacity to aggregate the enzyme, consistent with previous observations of decreased Ca-ATPase activity under conditions that decrease protein rotational mobility.

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