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Biochemistry. 2011 Mar 29;50(12):2249-63. doi: 10.1021/bi101301g. Epub 2011 Mar 4.

"Sticky" and "promiscuous", the yin and yang of apolipoprotein A-I termini in discoidal high-density lipoproteins: a combined computational-experimental approach.

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Department of Medicine and Atherosclerosis Research Unit, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, United States.


Apolipoprotein (apo) A-I-containing lipoproteins in the form of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are inversely correlated with atherosclerosis. Because HDL is a soft form of condensed matter easily deformable by thermal fluctuations, the molecular mechanisms for HDL remodeling are not well understood. A promising approach to understanding HDL structure and dynamics is molecular dynamics (MD). In the present study, two computational strategies, MD simulated annealing (MDSA) and MD temperature jump, were combined with experimental particle reconstitution to explore molecular mechanisms for phospholipid- (PL-) rich HDL particle remodeling. The N-terminal domains of full-length apoA-I were shown to be "sticky", acting as a molecular latch largely driven by salt bridges, until, at a critical threshold of particle size, the associated domains released to expose extensive hydrocarbon regions of the PL to solvent. The "sticky" N-termini also associate with other apoA-I domains, perhaps being involved in N-terminal loops suggested by other laboratories. Alternatively, the overlapping helix 10 C-terminal domains of apoA-I were observed to be extremely mobile or "promiscuous", transiently exposing limited hydrocarbon regions of PL. Based upon these models and reconstitution studies, we propose that separation of the N-terminal domains, as particles exceed a critical size, triggers fusion between particles or between particles and membranes, while the C-terminal domains of apoA-I drive the exchange of polar lipids down concentration gradients between particles. This hypothesis has significant biological relevance since lipid exchange and particle remodeling are critically important processes during metabolism of HDL particles at every step in the antiatherogenic process of reverse cholesterol transport.

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