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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 1;286(26):23254-65. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.217091. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

The adipophilin C terminus is a self-folding membrane-binding domain that is important for milk lipid secretion.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Molecular Biology, Division of Basic Reproductive Science, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.


Cytoplasmic lipid droplets (CLD) in mammary epithelial cells undergo secretion by a unique membrane envelopment process to produce milk lipids. Adipophilin (ADPH/Plin2), a member of the perilipin/PAT family of lipid droplet-associated proteins, is hypothesized to mediate CLD secretion through interactions with apical plasma membrane elements. We found that the secretion of CLD coated by truncated ADPH lacking the C-terminal region encoding a putative four-helix bundle structure was impaired relative to that of CLD coated by full-length ADPH. We used homology modeling and analyses of the solution and membrane binding properties of purified recombinant ADPH C terminus to understand how this region possibly mediates CLD secretion. Homology modeling supports the concept that the ADPH C terminus forms a four-helix bundle motif and suggests that this structure can form stable membrane bilayer interactions. Circular dichroism and protease mapping studies confirmed that the ADPH C terminus is an independently folding α-helical structure that is relatively resistant to urea denaturation. Liposome binding studies showed that the purified C terminus binds to phospholipid membranes through electrostatic dependent interactions, and cell culture studies documented that it localizes to the plasma membrane. Collectively, these data provide direct evidence that the ADPH C terminus forms a stable membrane binding helical structure that is important for CLD secretion. We speculate that interactions between the four-helix bundle of ADPH and membrane phospholipids may be an initial step in milk lipid secretion.

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