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Biophys J. 1991 Oct;60(4):922-30.

Orientation of melittin in phospholipid bilayers. A polarized attenuated total reflection infrared study.

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Department of Biophysical Chemistry, University of Basel, Switzerland.


The helical order parameter of the 26-residue amphiphilic bee venom peptide melittin was measured by polarized attenuated total reflection infrared spectroscopy (ATR-IR) in dry phospholipid multibilayers (MBLs) and when bound to single supported planar bilayers (SPBs) under D2O. Melittin adopted an alpha-helical conformation in MBLs of dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC), 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC), a 4:1 mixture of POPC and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol (POPG), and when bound to SPBs of POPC:POPG (4:1). The order parameter of the alpha-helix in the bilayers depended mainly on the type of membrane preparation, and only little on the phospholipid composition of the bilayers. On hydrated SPBs, the helical order parameter was negative, indicating that the alpha-helix long axis of melittin was preferentially oriented parallel to the plane of the supported membrane. However, in dry MBLs, the helical order parameter was positive, indicating that the alpha-helix of melittin was preferentially oriented parallel to the phospholipid fatty acyl chains. It is concluded that the orientation of melittin in membranes depends on the degree of hydration of the model membranes rather than on the technique which is used for its determination. ATR-IR spectroscopy of polypeptides in or associated with supported planar membranes in D2O may become a useful tool for the determination of their orientation in and on membranes.

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