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J Biol Chem. 2005 Apr 8;280(14):14097-104. Epub 2005 Jan 24.

A highly conserved binding site in vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein (VAP) for the FFAT motif of lipid-binding proteins.

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Division of Cell Biology, Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, Bath Street, London EC1V 9EL, United Kingdom.


A variety of lipid-binding proteins contain a recently described motif, designated FFAT (two phenylalanines in an acidic tract), which binds to vesicle-associated-membrane protein-associated protein (VAP). VAP is a conserved integral membrane protein of the endoplasmic reticulum that contains at its amino terminus a domain related to the major sperm protein of nematode worms. Here we have studied the FFAT-VAP interaction in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, where the VAP homologue Scs2 regulates phospholipid metabolism via an interaction with the FFAT motif of Opi1. By introducing mutations at random into Scs2, we found that mutations that abrogated binding to FFAT were clustered in the most highly conserved region. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we identified several critical residues, including two lysines widely separated in the primary sequence. By examining all other conserved basic residues, we identified a third residue that was moderately important for binding FFAT. Modeling VAP on the known structure of major sperm protein showed that the critical residues form a patch on a positively charged face of the protein. In vivo functional studies of SCS22, a second SCS2-like gene in S. cerevisiae, showed that SCS2 was the dominant gene in the regulation of Opi1, with a minor contribution from SCS22. We then established that reduction in the affinity of Scs2 mutants for FFAT correlated well with loss of function, indicating the importance of these residues for binding FFAT motifs. Finally, we found that human VAP-A could substitute for Scs2 but that it functioned poorly, suggesting that other factors modulate the binding of Scs2 to proteins with FFAT motifs.

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