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Biochemistry. 2014 Jan 28;53(3):450-61. doi: 10.1021/bi401457r. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

The curvature sensitivity of a membrane-binding amphipathic helix can be modulated by the charge on a flanking region.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University , Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6.


Membrane-induced amphipathic helices (m-AH) can act as membrane curvature sensors by binding preferentially to hydrophobic lipid packing defects enriched in curved surfaces. Reliance on hydrophobicity and membrane curvature for binding is enhanced when electrostatic interactions are weak. We probed the role of modifying membrane and protein charge on the curvature sensing of two m-AH-containing proteins, CTP:phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase (CCT) and α-synuclein (α-syn). The m-AH domains in both proteins are flanked by disordered tails with multiple phosphoserines (CCT) or acidic residues (α-syn), which we mutated to glutamate or serine to modify protein charge. Analysis of binding to vesicles of varying curvature showed that increasing the negative charge of the tail region decreased the binding strength and augmented the curvature dependence, especially for CCT. We attribute this to charge repulsion. Conversely, increasing the membrane negative charge dampened the curvature dependence. Our data suggest that discrimination of curved versus flat membranes with high negative charge could be modulated by phosphorylation.

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