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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1982 Jun 14;688(2):441-52.

Melittin-phospholipid interaction studied by employing the single tryptophan residue as an intrinsic fluorescent probe.


The rotational correlation time of melittin, obtained from the nanosecond anisotropy of the emission from its single tryptophan residue, has been found to increase considerably in phosphate solution relative to that in aqueous solution, consistent with protein aggregation. The steady-state fluorescence spectra as well as the absorption spectra in phosphate solution exhibit a very good degree of similarity with those of the protein bound to egg phosphatidylcholine (PC) and distearoylphosphatidylcholine (DSPC) bilayer liposomes. The value of the second-order rate constant for dynamic quenching, kq = 1.4.10(9) M-1.s-1, by acrylamide in 0.5 M phosphate solution is comparable to those for the protein-phospholipids complexes (1.10(9) and 0.7.10(9) M-1.s-1 for egg PC and DSPC, respectively). Similarities are also found in the nanosecond properties. There is a much stronger and quite similar dependence of the fluorescence spectra on time in the nanosecond range and of the fluorescence decay times on the emission wavelength in both cases as compared to the case is aqueous solution. These observations support the notion that melittin binds to the phospholipids in an aggregated form. The results suggest that the reduction in the kq values of bound melittin relative to that in aqueous solution and the blue shift of the fluorescence spectrum (from 352 to 337 nm) are brought about by shielding of the tryptophan residue from the solvent through a combination of protein aggregation and enhancement of its alpha-helical content (suggested by published CD data). The magnitude of the kq values for bound melittin, however, is still relatively high implying the occurrence of rather frequent encounters between the tryptophan residue and the hydrophilic acrylamide molecules. Thus, the residue is found not to penetrate deep into the phospholipid bilayer.

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