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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Characterization of a membrane protein folding motif, the Ser zipper, using designed peptides.

Polar residues play important roles in the association of transmembrane helices and the stabilities of membrane proteins. Although a single Ser residue in a transmembrane helix is unable to mediate a strong association of the helices, the cooperative interactions of two or more appropriately placed serine hydroxyl groups per helix has been hypothesized to allow formation of a "serine zipper" that can stabilize transmembrane helix association. In particular, a heptad repeat Sera Xxx Xxx Leud Xxx Xxx Xxx (Xxx is a hydrophobic amino acid) appears in both antiparallel helical pairs of polytopic membrane proteins as well as the parallel helical dimerization motif found in the murine erythropoietin receptor. To examine the intrinsic conformational preferences of this motif independent of its context within a larger protein, we synthesized a peptide containing three copies of a SeraLeud heptad motif. Computational results are consistent with the designed peptide adopting either a parallel or antiparallel structure, and conformational search calculations yield the parallel dimer as the lowest energy configuration, which is also significantly more stable than the parallel trimer. Analytical ultracentrifugation indicated that the peptide exists in a monomer-dimer equilibrium in dodecylphosphocholine micelles. Thiol disulfide interchange studies showed a preference for forming parallel dimers in micelles. In phospholipid vesicles, only the parallel dimer was formed. The stability of the SerZip peptide was studied in vesicles prepared from phosphatidylcholine (PC) lipids of different chain length: POPC (C16:0C18:1 PC) and DLPC (C12:0PC). The stability was greater in POPC, which has a good match between the length of the hydrophobic region of the peptide and the bilayer length. Finally, mutation to Ala of the Ser residues in the SerZip motif gave rise to a relatively small decrease in the stability of the dimer, indicating that packing interactions rather than hydrogen-bonding provided the primary driving force for association.[1]


  1. Characterization of a membrane protein folding motif, the Ser zipper, using designed peptides. North, B., Cristian, L., Fu Stowell, X., Lear, J.D., Saven, J.G., Degrado, W.F. J. Mol. Biol. (2006) [Pubmed]
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