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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Apr 28;343(1):222-8. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Investigation of toroidal pore and oligomerization by melittin using transmission electron microscopy.

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Research Center for Proteineous Materials, Chosun University, Kwangju 501-759, Republic of Korea.


We studied the effects of melittin on various cell wall components and vesicles of various lipid compositions. To interact with the cytoplasmic membrane, melittin must traverse the cell wall, which is composed of oligosaccharides. Here, we found that melittin had a strong affinity for chitin, peptidoglycan, and lipopolysaccharide. We further examined the influence of lipid compositions on the lysis of the membranes by melittin. The result showed that melittin bound better to negatively charged than to zwitterionic lipid vesicles but was more potent at inducing leakage from zwitterionic lipid vesicles. Our studies further indicated that the oligomeric state of melittin varied between tetramers and octamers during the formation of toroidal pores. Dextran leakage experiments confirmed the formation and dimension of these toroidal pores. Finally, transmission electron microscopy revealed that melittin formed pores via peptide oligomerization by the toroidal pore-forming mechanism. The toroidal pores composed of 7-8 nm diameter rings that encircled 3.5-4.5 nm diameter cavities on zwitterionic lipid vesicles.

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