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Trends Cell Biol. 2004 Oct;14(10):568-75.

Membrane-protein integration and the role of the translocation channel.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Most eukaryotic membrane proteins are integrated into the lipid bilayer during their synthesis at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Their integration occurs with the help of a protein-conducting channel formed by the heterotrimeric Sec61 membrane-protein complex. The crystal structure of an archaeal homolog of the complex suggests mechanisms that enable the channel to open across the membrane and to release laterally hydrophobic transmembrane segments of nascent membrane proteins into lipid. Many aspects of membrane-protein integration remain controversial and poorly understood, but new structural data provide testable hypotheses. We propose a model of how the channel recognizes transmembrane segments, orients them properly with respect to the plane of the membrane and releases them into lipid. We also discuss how the channel would prevent small molecules from crossing the lipid bilayer while it is integrating proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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