Chemical versus mechanical perturbations on the protonation state of arginine in complex lipid membranes: insights from microscopic pKa calculations.
ABSTRACT: Charged amino acids such as Arginine play important roles in many membrane-mediated biological processes such as voltage gating of ion channels and membrane translocation of cell penetration peptides. It is well established that local membrane deformation and formation of water defects are crucial to the stabilization of charged species in contact with the membrane, which suggests that mechanical properties of the membrane are relevant although a clear connection has not been established. As a quantitative measure, we study how changes in the composition and therefore mechanical properties of a lipid bilayer influence the pK(a) of Arg in the membrane center using free energy simulations. Compared to previous studies in a single-component lipid bilayer containing saturated lipids or lipids with a modest degree of unsaturation, substantially larger pK(a) shifts are observed in the presence of highly unsaturated lipid tails and cholesterol. Moreover, the underlying molecular mechanisms for the pK(a) perturbation are distinct in different systems, with the unsaturated lipid tails mainly destabilizing the charged state of Arg and the cholesterol stabilizing the neutral state of Arg. The observed behaviors in both cases are at odds with predictions based on mechanical considerations at a mesoscopic level--highlighting that, while mechanical considerations are useful for stimulating hypothesis, their applicability to dissecting phenomena at the molecular-length scale is rather limited.
Project description:Free energy perturbation calculations are carried out to estimate the effective pK(a) of an arginine (Arg) sidechain as a function of its location in the dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine bilayer. Similar to previous all-atom simulations of the voltage sensor domain of a potassium channel in the membrane with charged Arg residues, the membrane and water structures deform to stabilize the charge of the Arg analog. As a result, the computed pK(a) is >7 throughout the membrane although the value is very close to 7 near the center of the bilayer. With additional stabilizations from negatively charged amino acids or lipid molecules, it is reasonable to expect that Arg in membrane proteins (once in the membrane) can adopt the protonated state despite the low dielectric nature of the bulk lipid membrane.
Project description:Biological membranes consist of bilayer arrangements of lipids forming a hydrophobic core that presents a physical barrier to all polar and charged molecules. This long-held notion has recently been challenged by biological translocon-based experiments that report small apparent free energies to insert charged side chains near the center of a transmembrane (TM) helix. We have carried out fully atomistic simulations to provide the free-energy profile for moving a TM helix containing a protonated Arg side chain across a lipid bilayer. Our results reveal the fundamental thermodynamics governing the stability of charged side chains in membranes and the microscopic interactions involved. Despite local membrane deformations, where large amounts of water and lipid head groups are pulled into the bilayer to interact with Arg, the free-energy barrier is 17 kcal/mol. We provide a rationale for the differences in our microscopic free energies and cell biological experiments using free-energy calculations that indicate that a protonated Arg at the central residue of a TM helix of the Leader peptidase might reside close to the interface and not at the membrane center. Our findings have implications for the gating mechanisms of voltage-gated ion channels, suggesting that movements of protonated Arg residues through the membrane will be prohibited.
Project description:Biological membranes are composed of lipid bilayers that are often asymmetric with regards to the lipid composition and/or aqueous solvent they separate. Studying lipid asymmetry both experimentally and computationally is challenging. Molecular dynamics simulations of lipid bilayers with asymmetry are difficult due to finite system sizes and time scales accessible to simulations. Due to the very slow flip-flop rate for phospholipids, one must first choose how many lipids are on each side of the bilayer, but the resulting bilayer may be unstable (or metastable) due to differing tensile and compressive forces between leaflets. Here we use molecular dynamics simulations to investigate a number of different asymmetric membrane systems, both with atomistic and coarse-grained models. Asymmetries studied include differences in number of lipids, lipid composition (unsaturated and saturated tails and different headgroups), and chemical gradients between the aqueous phases. Extensive analysis of the bilayers' properties such as area per lipid, density, and lateral pressure profiles are used to characterize bilayer asymmetry. We also address how cholesterol (which flip-flops relatively quickly) influences membrane asymmetries. Our results show how each leaflet is influenced by the other and can mitigate the structural changes to the bilayer overall structure. Cholesterol can respond to changes in bilayer asymmetry to alleviate some of the effect on the bilayer structure, but that will alter its leaflet distribution, which in turn affects its chemical potential. Ionic imbalances are shown to have a modest change in bilayer structure, despite large changes in the electrostatic potential. Bilayer asymmetry can also induce a modest electrostatic potential across the membrane. Our results highlight the importance of membrane asymmetry on bilayer properties, the influence of lipid headgroups, tails and cholesterol on asymmetry, and the ability of lipids to adapt to different environments.
Project description:Long-chain free fatty acids (FFAs) play an important role in several physiological and pathological processes such as lipid fusion, adjustments of membrane permeability and fluidity, and the regulation of enzyme and protein activities. FFA-facilitated membrane proton transport (flip-flop) and FFA-dependent proton transport by membrane proteins (e.g., mitochondrial uncoupling proteins) are governed by the difference between FFA's intrinsic pK<sub>a</sub> value and the pH in the immediate membrane vicinity. Thus far, a quantitative understanding of the process has been hampered, because the pK<sub>a</sub> value shifts upon moving the FFA from the aqueous solution into the membrane. For the same FFA, pK<sub>a</sub> values between 5 and 10.5 were reported. Here, we systematically evaluated the dependence of pK<sub>a</sub> values on chain length and number of double bonds by measuring the ?-potential of liposomes reconstituted with FFA at different pH values. The experimentally obtained intrinsic pK<sub>a</sub> values (6.25, 6.93, and 7.28 for DOPC membranes) increased with FFA chain length (C16, C18, and C20), indicating that the hydrophobic energy of transfer into the bilayer is an important pK<sub>a</sub> determinant. The observed pK<sub>a</sub> decrease in DOPC with increasing number of FFA double bonds (7.28, 6.49, 6.16, and 6.13 for C20:0, C20:1, C20:2, and C20:4, respectively) is in line with a decrease in transfer energy. Molecular dynamic simulations revealed that the ionized carboxylic group of the FFAs occupied a fixed position in the bilayer independent of chain length, underlining the importance of Born energy. We conclude that pK<sub>a</sub> is determined by the interplay between the energetic costs for 1) burying the charged moiety into the lipid bilayer and 2) transferring the hydrophobic protonated FFA into the bilayer.
Project description:The ionization states of individual amino acid residues of membrane proteins are difficult to decipher or assign directly in the lipid-bilayer membrane environment. We address this issue for lysines and arginines in designed transmembrane helices. For lysines (but not arginines) at two locations within dioleoyl-phosphatidylcholine bilayer membranes, we measure pK(a) values below 7.0. We find that buried charged lysine, in fashion similar to arginine, will modulate helix orientation to maximize its own access to the aqueous interface or, if occluded by aromatic rings, may cause a transmembrane helix to exit the lipid bilayer. Interestingly, the influence of neutral lysine (vis-à-vis leucine) upon helix orientation also depends upon its aqueous access. Our results suggest that changes in the ionization states of particular residues will regulate membrane protein function and furthermore illustrate the subtle complexity of ionization behavior with respect to the detailed lipid and protein environment.
Project description:Many functionally essential ionizable groups are buried in the hydrophobic interior of proteins. A systematic study of Lys, Asp, and Glu residues at 25 internal positions in staphylococcal nuclease showed that their pK(a) values can be highly anomalous, some shifted by as many as 5.7 pH units relative to normal pK(a) values in water. Here we show that, in contrast, Arg residues at the same internal positions exhibit no detectable shifts in pK(a); they are all charged at pH ? 10. Twenty-three of these 25 variants with Arg are folded at both pH 7 and 10. The mean decrease in thermodynamic stability from substitution with Arg was 6.2 kcal/mol at this pH, comparable to that for substitution with Lys, Asp, or Glu at pH 7. The physical basis behind the remarkable ability of Arg residues to remain protonated in environments otherwise incompatible with charges is suggested by crystal structures of three variants showing how the guanidinium moiety of the Arg side chain is effectively neutralized through multiple hydrogen bonds to protein polar atoms and to site-bound water molecules. The length of the Arg side chain, and slight deformations of the protein, facilitate placement of the guanidinium moieties near polar groups or bulk water. This unique capacity of Arg side chains to retain their charge in dehydrated environments likely contributes toward the important functional roles of internal Arg residues in situations where a charge is needed in the interior of a protein, in a lipid bilayer, or in similarly hydrophobic environments.
Project description:Independent experimental and computational approaches show agreement concerning arginine/membrane interactions when a single arginine is introduced at selected positions within the membrane-spanning region of acetyl-GGALW(5)LALALAL(12)AL(14)ALALW(19)LAGA-ethanolamide, designated GWALP23. Peptide sequence isomers having Arg in position 12 or position 14 display markedly different behaviors, as deduced by both solid-state NMR experiments and coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CG-MD) simulations. With respect to the membrane normal of DOPC or DPPC lipid bilayer membranes, GWALP23-R14 shows one major state whose apparent average tilt is approximately 10 degrees greater than that of GWALP23. The presence of R14 furthermore induces bilayer thinning and peptide displacement to "lift" the charged guanidinium toward the bilayer surface. By contrast, GWALP23-R12 exhibits multiple states that are in slow exchange on the NMR time scale, with CG-MD simulations indicating two distinct positions with different screw rotation angles in the membrane, along with an increased tendency to exit the lipid bilayer.
2010-01-01 | S-EPMC2888137 | BioStudies
Project description:Bax proteins form pores in the mitochondrial outer membrane to initiate apoptosis. This might involve their embedding in the cytosolic leaflet of the lipid bilayer, thus generating tension to induce a lipid pore with radially arranged lipids forming the wall. Alternatively, Bax proteins might comprise part of the pore wall. However, there is no unambiguous structural evidence for either hypothesis. Using NMR, we determined a high-resolution structure of the Bax core region, revealing a dimer with the nonpolar surface covering the lipid bilayer edge and the polar surface exposed to water. The dimer tilts from the bilayer normal, not only maximizing nonpolar interactions with lipid tails but also creating polar interactions between charged residues and lipid heads. Structure-guided mutations demonstrate the importance of both types of protein-lipid interactions in Bax pore assembly and core dimer configuration. Therefore, the Bax core dimer forms part of the proteolipid pore wall to permeabilize mitochondria.
Project description:The influence of two bioactive oxidized phospholipids on model bilayer properties, membrane packing, and endothelial cell biomechanics was investigated computationally and experimentally. The truncated tail phospholipids, 1-palmitoyl-2-(5-oxovaleroyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POVPC) and 1-palmitoyl-2-glutaroyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (PGPC), are two major oxidation products of the unsaturated phospholipid 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycero-phosphocholine. A combination of coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, Laurdan multiphoton imaging, and atomic force microscopy microindentation experiments was used to determine the impact of POVPC and PGPC on the structure of a multicomponent phospholipid bilayer and to assess the consequences of their incorporation on membrane packing and endothelial cell stiffness. Molecular simulations predicted differential bilayer perturbation effects of the two oxidized phospholipids based on the chemical identities of their truncated tails, including decreased bilayer packing, decreased bilayer bending modulus, and increased water penetration. Disruption of lipid order was consistent with Laurdan imaging results indicating that POVPC and PGPC decrease the lipid packing of both ordered and disordered membrane domains. Computational predictions of a larger membrane perturbation effect by PGPC correspond to greater stiffness of PGPC-treated endothelial cells observed by measuring cellular elastic moduli using atomic force microscopy. Our results suggest that disruptions in membrane structure by oxidized phospholipids play a role in the regulation of overall endothelial cell stiffness.
Project description:Recent results provide evidence that cholesterol is highly accessible for removal from both cell and model membranes above a threshold concentration that varies with membrane composition. Here we measured the rate at which methyl-?-cyclodextrin depletes cholesterol from a supported lipid bilayer as a function of cholesterol mole fraction. We formed supported bilayers from two-component mixtures of cholesterol and a PC (phosphatidylcholine) lipid, and we directly visualized the rate of decrease in area of the bilayers with fluorescence microscopy. Our technique yields the accessibility of cholesterol over a wide range of concentrations (30-66 mol %) for many individual bilayers, enabling fast acquisition of replicate data. We found that the bilayers contain two populations of cholesterol, one with low surface accessibility and the other with high accessibility. A larger fraction of the total membrane cholesterol appears in the more accessible population when the acyl chains of the PC-lipid tails are more unsaturated. Our findings are most consistent with the predictions of the condensed-complex and cholesterol bilayer domain models of cholesterol-phospholipid interactions in lipid membranes.