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Protein Sci. 2014 Sep;23(9):1165-96. doi: 10.1002/pro.2508. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Life at the border: adaptation of proteins to anisotropic membrane environment.

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Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109-1065.


This review discusses main features of transmembrane (TM) proteins which distinguish them from water-soluble proteins and allow their adaptation to the anisotropic membrane environment. We overview the structural limitations on membrane protein architecture, spatial arrangement of proteins in membranes and their intrinsic hydrophobic thickness, co-translational and post-translational folding and insertion into lipid bilayers, topogenesis, high propensity to form oligomers, and large-scale conformational transitions during membrane insertion and transport function. Special attention is paid to the polarity of TM protein surfaces described by profiles of dipolarity/polarizability and hydrogen-bonding capacity parameters that match polarity of the lipid environment. Analysis of distributions of Trp resides on surfaces of TM proteins from different biological membranes indicates that interfacial membrane regions with preferential accumulation of Trp indole rings correspond to the outer part of the lipid acyl chain region-between double bonds and carbonyl groups of lipids. These "midpolar" regions are not always symmetric in proteins from natural membranes. We also examined the hydrophobic effect that drives insertion of proteins into lipid bilayer and different free energy contributions to TM protein stability, including attractive van der Waals forces and hydrogen bonds, side-chain conformational entropy, the hydrophobic mismatch, membrane deformations, and specific protein-lipid binding.


database; hydrophobic thickness; membrane protein; polarity; protein folding; protein stability; protein-lipid interactions

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