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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Mar;1808(3):674-83. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2010.11.030. Epub 2010 Dec 3.

Conformational choreography of a molecular switch region in myelin basic protein--molecular dynamics shows induced folding and secondary structure type conversion upon threonyl phosphorylation in both aqueous and membrane-associated environments.

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Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Parma, V. le Usberti, 7/A, 43100 Parma, Italy.


The 18.5 kDa isoform of myelin basic protein is essential to maintaining the close apposition of myelin membranes in central nervous system myelin, but its intrinsic disorder (conformational dependence on environment), a variety of post-translational modifications, and a diversity of protein ligands (e.g., actin and tubulin) all indicate it to be multifunctional. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations of a conserved central segment of 18.5 kDa myelin basic protein (residues Glu80-Gly103, murine sequence numbering) in aqueous and membrane-associated environments to ascertain the stability of constituent secondary structure elements (α-helix from Glu80-Val91 and extended poly-proline type II from Thr92-Gly103) and the effects of phosphorylation of residues Thr92 and Thr95, individually and together. In aqueous solution, all four forms of the peptide bent in the middle to form a hydrophobic cluster. The phosphorylated variants were stabilized further by electrostatic interactions and formation of β-structures, in agreement with previous spectroscopic data. In simulations performed with the peptide in association with a dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine bilayer, the amphipathic α-helical segment remained stable and membrane-associated, although the degree of penetration was less in the phosphorylated variants, and the tilt of the α-helix with respect to the plane of the membrane also changed significantly with the modifications. The extended segment adjacent to this α-helix represents a putative SH3-ligand and remained exposed to the cytoplasm (and thus accessible to binding partners). The results of these simulations demonstrate how this segment of the protein can act as a molecular switch: an amphipathic α-helical segment of the protein is membrane-associated and presents a subsequent proline-rich segment to the cytoplasm for interaction with other proteins. Phosphorylation of threonyl residues alters the degree of membrane penetration of the α-helix and the accessibility of the proline-rich ligand and can stabilize a β-bend. A bend in this region of 18.5 kDa myelin basic protein suggests that the N- and C-termini of the proteins can interact with different leaflets of the myelin membrane and explain how a single protein can bring them close together.

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