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Biochemistry. 2000 Jan 11;39(1):161-70.

Determining the membrane topology of peptides by fluorescence quenching.

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Department of Physiology, University of California at Irvine 92697-4560, USA.


Determination of the topology of peptides in membranes is important for characterizing and understanding the interactions of peptides with membranes. We describe a method that uses fluorescence quenching arising from resonance energy transfer ("FRET") for determining the topology of the tryptophan residues of peptides partitioned into phospholipid bilayer vesicles. This is accomplished through the use of a novel lyso-phospholipid quencher (lysoMC), N-(7-hydroxyl-4-methylcoumarin-3-acetyl)-1-palmitoyl-2-hydroxy-sn-gly cero-3-phosphoethanolamine. The design principle was to anchor the methylcoumarin quencher in the membrane interface by attaching it to the headgroup of lyso-phosphoethanolamine. We show that lysoMC can be incorporated readily into large unilamellar phospholipid vesicles to yield either symmetrically (both leaflets) or asymmetrically (outer leaflet only) labeled bilayers. LysoMC quenches the fluorescence of membrane-bound tryptophan by the Förster mechanism with an apparent R(0) that is comparable to the thickness of the hydrocarbon core of a lipid bilayer (approximately 25 A). Consequently, the methylcoumarin acceptor predominantly quenches tryptophans that reside in the same monolayer as the probe. The topology of a peptide's tryptophan in membranes can be determined by comparing the quenching in symmetric and asymmetric lysoMC-labeled vesicles. Because it is essential to know that asymmetrically incorporated lysoMC remains so under all conditions, we also developed a second type of FRET experiment for assessing the rate of transbilayer diffusion (flip-flop) of lysoMC. Except in the presence of pore-forming peptides, there was no measurable flip-flop of lysoMC, indicating that asymmetric distributions of quencher are stable. We used these methods to show that N-acetyl-tryptophan-octylamide and tryptophan-octylester rapidly equilibrate across phosphatidylcholine (POPC) and phosphatidylglycerol (POPG) bilayers, while four amphipathic model peptides remain exclusively on the outer monolayer. The topology of the amphipathic peptide melittin bound to POPC could not be determined because it induced rapid flip-flop of lysoMC. Interestingly, melittin did not induce lysoMC flip-flop in POPG vesicles and was found to remain stably on the external monolayer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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