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J Mol Biol. 2008 May 30;379(2):331-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.03.061. Epub 2008 Apr 3.

Crystal structure of the MACPF domain of human complement protein C8 alpha in complex with the C8 gamma subunit.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Human C8 is one of five complement components (C5b, C6, C7, C8, and C9) that assemble on bacterial membranes to form a porelike structure referred to as the "membrane attack complex" (MAC). C8 contains three genetically distinct subunits (C8 alpha, C8 beta, C8 gamma) arranged as a disulfide-linked C8 alpha-gamma dimer that is noncovalently associated with C8 beta. C6, C7 C8 alpha, C8 beta, and C9 are homologous. All contain N- and C-terminal modules and an intervening 40-kDa segment referred to as the membrane attack complex/perforin (MACPF) domain. The C8 gamma subunit is unrelated and belongs to the lipocalin family of proteins that display a beta-barrel fold and generally bind small, hydrophobic ligands. Several hundred proteins with MACPF domains have been identified based on sequence similarity; however, the structure and function of most are unknown. Crystal structures of the secreted bacterial protein Plu-MACPF and the human C8 alpha MACPF domain were recently reported and both display a fold similar to those of the bacterial pore-forming cholesterol-dependent cytolysins (CDCs). In the present study, we determined the crystal structure of the human C8 alpha MACPF domain disulfide-linked to C8 gamma (alphaMACPF-gamma) at 2.15 A resolution. The alphaMACPF portion has the predicted CDC-like fold and shows two regions of interaction with C8 gamma. One is in a previously characterized 19-residue insertion (indel) in C8 alpha and fills the entrance to the putative C8 gamma ligand-binding site. The second is a hydrophobic pocket that makes contact with residues on the side of the C8 gamma beta-barrel. The latter interaction induces conformational changes in alphaMACPF that are likely important for C8 function. Also observed is structural conservation of the MACPF signature motif Y/W-G-T/S-H-F/Y-X(6)-G-G in alphaMACPF and Plu-MACPF, and conservation of several key glycine residues known to be important for refolding and pore formation by CDCs.

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