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J Mol Biol. 2003 Nov 28;334(3):527-39.

Inter-molecular coiled-coil formation in human apolipoprotein E C-terminal domain.

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Lipid Biology in Health and Disease Research Group, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, 5700 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94609-1673, USA.


Human apolipoprotein E (apoE) is composed of an N-terminal (NT) domain (residues 1-191) that bears low-density lipoprotein receptor-binding sites, and a C-terminal (CT) domain (residues 210-299), which houses lipoprotein binding and apoE self-association sites. The NT domain is comprised of a four-helix bundle, while the structural organization of the CT domain is not known. Secondary structural algorithms predict that the apoE CT domain adopts an amphipathic alpha-helical conformation. On the basis of further sequence predictions, we identified a segment (residues 218-266) in the apoE CT domain that bears a high propensity to form a coiled-coil helix, which coincides with the putative lipoprotein-binding surface. An apoE construct bearing residues 201-299 that encompasses the entire CT domain was designed, expressed in Escherichia coli and purified by affinity chromatography. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy of the apoE CT domain reveals spectra characteristic of coiled-coil helices, with the ratio of molar ellipticities at 222 nm and 208 nm ([theta](222)/[theta](208)) of 1.03. Trifluoroethanol (TFE) stabilized the secondary structure of the apoE CT domain and disrupted coiled-coil helix formation as determined by CD and tryptophan fluorescence analysis. Analytical ultracentrifugation and lysine-specific cross-linking analysis of the apoE CT domain revealed predominant formation of dimeric and tetrameric species in aqueous buffers, and monomeric forms in 50% TFE. Guanidine hydrochloride-induced denaturation studies reveal that, at low concentrations of denaturant, the apoE CT domain maintains the [theta](222)/[theta](208) ratio at approximately 1.0 and elicits an altered tertiary environment with a shift in oligomeric state towards a dimer, indicative of the role of coiled-coil helix formation in inter molecular interactions. Further, coiled-coil formation is disrupted by protonation below pH 6.0, with a corresponding decrease in Trp fluorescence emission intensity, demonstrating that salt-bridge interactions play a critical role in maintaining the structural integrity of the apoE CT domain. The data support the concept that inter molecular coiled-coil helix formation is an essential structural feature of the apoE CT domain, which likely plays a role in clustering heparin-binding sites and/or sequestering the lipid-binding surface in lipid-free states.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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