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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2011 Sep;10(9):M111.010876. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M111.010876. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

Conformational transitions in the membrane scaffold protein of phospholipid bilayer nanodiscs.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Phospholipid bilayer nanodiscs are model membrane systems that provide an environment where membrane proteins are highly stable and monodisperse without the use of detergents or liposomes. Nanodiscs consist of a discoidal phospholipid bilayer encircled by two copies of an amphipathic alpha helical membrane scaffold protein, which is modeled from apolipoprotein A-1. Hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry was used to probe the structure and dynamics of the scaffold protein in the presence and absence of lipid. On nanodisc self-assembly, the entire scaffold protein gained significant protection from exchange, consistent with a large, protein-wide, structural rearrangement. This protection was short-lived and the scaffold protein was highly deuterated within 2 h. Several regions of the scaffold protein, in both the lipid-free and lipid-associated states, displayed EX1 unfolding kinetics. The rapid deuteration of the scaffold protein and the presence of correlated unfolding events both indicate that nanodiscs are dynamic rather than rigid bodies in solution. This work provides a catalog of the expected scaffold protein peptic peptides in a nanodisc-hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry experiment and their deuterium uptake signatures, data that can be used as a benchmark to verify correct assembly and nanodisc structure. Such reference data will be useful control data for all hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry experiments involving nanodiscs in which transmembrane or lipid-associated proteins are the primary molecule(s) of interest.

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