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Biochemistry. 2008 Dec 9;47(49):13127-37. doi: 10.1021/bi801423s.

Who is Mr. HAMLET? Interaction of human alpha-lactalbumin with monomeric oleic acid.

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  • 1Institute for Biological Instrumentation of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


A specific state of the human milk Ca(2+) binding protein alpha-lactalbumin (hLA) complexed with oleic acid (OA) prepared using an OA-pretreated ion-exchange column (HAMLET) triggers several cell death pathways in various tumor cells. The possibility of preparing a hLA-OA complex with structural and cytotoxic properties similar to those of the HAMLET but under solution conditions has been explored. The complex was formed by titration of hLA by OA at pH 8.3 up to OA critical micelle concentration. We have shown that complex formation strongly depends on calcium, ionic strength, and temperature; the optimal conditions were established. The spectrofluorimetrically estimated number of OA molecules irreversibly bound per hLA molecule (after dialysis of the OA-loaded preparation against water followed by lyophilization) depends upon temperature: 2.9 at 17 degrees C (native apo-hLA; resulting complex referred to as LA-OA-17 state) and 9 at 45 degrees C (thermally unfolded apo-hLA; LA-OA-45). Intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence measurements revealed substantially decreased thermal stability of Ca(2+)-free forms of HAMLET, LA-OA-45, and OA-saturated protein. The irreversibly bound OA does not affect the Ca(2+) association constant of the protein. Phase plot analysis of fluorimetric and CD data indicates that the OA binding process involves several hLA intermediates. The effective pseudoequilibrium OA association constants for Ca(2+)-free hLA were estimated. The far-UV CD spectra of Ca(2+)-free hLA show that all OA-bound forms of the protein are characterized by elevated content of alpha-helical structure. The various hLA-OA complexes possess similar cytotoxic activities against human epidermoid larynx carcinoma cells. Overall, the LA-OA-45 complex possesses physicochemical, structural, and cytotoxic properties closely resembling those of HAMLET. The fact that the HAMLET-like complex can be formed in aqueous solution makes the process of its preparation more transparent and controllable, opening up opportunities for formation of active complexes with specific properties.

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