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Biochemistry. 2011 Oct 25;50(42):9014-22. doi: 10.1021/bi201307u. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Molecular mechanism of cholesterol- and polyphosphoinositide-mediated syntaxin clustering.

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Center for Membrane Biology and Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, University of Virginia, Virginia 22908, United States.


The neuronal acceptor SNARE complex that functions as the receptor for synaptic vesicle docking and fusion at the presynaptic membrane is composed of the single-span transmembrane protein syntaxin-1A and the palmitoylated soluble protein SNAP-25. Previously, we explored interactions that promote the formation of syntaxin-1A clusters in membranes. Cholesterol activates clustering in native and model membranes, and its depletion in neuroendocrine cells results in a homogeneous distribution of the protein. However, as little as 1 mol % phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI-4,5-P(2)) or 20 mol % phosphatidylserine was found to disperse syntaxin-1A clusters [Murray, D. H., and Tamm, L. K. (2009) Biochemistry 48, 4617-4625]. Strong evidence suggests that syntaxin-1A and its synaptic vesicle cognate synaptobrevin both interact directly with PI-4,5-P(2) and that this interaction activates fusion. However, the molecular details of this interaction and its relationship to the partial dispersion of syntaxin-1A clusters remain largely unexplored. Hence, we mutated the polybasic juxtamembrane motif of syntaxin-1A and found several residues that partially or fully abrogate the electrostatic interaction with PI-4,5-P(2). We further show that even in the presence of physiological concentrations of phosphatidylserine, the PI-4,5-P(2)-syntaxin interaction is sufficiently strong to disrupt syntaxin-1A clustering. The stereochemistry of PI-4,5-P(2) is not critical for this interaction as other polyphosphoinositides have similar effects. Forming an acceptor SNARE complex between syntaxin-1A and SNAP-25 weakens but does not abrogate cholesterol/PI-4,5-P(2)-controlled cluster formation. Potential consequences of these interactions with respect to synaptic vesicle fusion are discussed.

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