Role of phosphatidylethanolamine in the function and assembly of phenylalanine-specific permease of Escherichia coli

Wei Zhang, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Transmembrane segments of polytopic membrane proteins once inserted are generally considered stably oriented due to the large free energy barrier for topological reorientation of adjacent extra-membrane domains. However, proper topology and function of the polytopic membrane protein lactose permease (LacY) of Escherichia coli is dependent on the membrane phospholipid composition revealing topological dynamics of transmembrane domains (Bogdanov, M., Heacock, P. N., and Dowhan, W. (2002) EMBO J. 21, 2107–2116). The high affinity phenylalanine permease PheP shares many topological similarities with LacY. In this study, mutant E. coli cells lacking phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) as a membrane component were used to evaluate the role of PE in the function and assembly of PheP. Active transport of phenylalanine by cells lacking PE was severely inhibited (both Vmax and Km were altered), whereas the PheP protein level in membranes was unaffected. Cysteine residues were introduced into predicted periplasmic or cytoplasmic segments of cysteine-less PheP, and the topology of the protein was explored using a membrane-impermeable thiol-specific biotinylated probe. Based on the biotinylation patterns of PheP in whole cells, the N-terminus and adjoining transmembrane hairpin of PheP adopted an inverted topological orientation in PE-lacking cells. Introduction of PE following the assembly of PheP triggered a reorientation of the N-terminus and adjacent hairpin to their native orientation associated with regain of wild type transport function. These results coupled with the results for LacY support a specific role for membrane lipid composition in determining topological organization and function of membrane proteins. Several other secondary symporters are compromised for activity in PE-lacking cells suggesting that lipid-assisted topogenesis is a general property of such transporters. The reversible orientation of these secondary transport proteins in response to a change of phospholipid composition might be a result of inherent conformational flexibility necessary for transport function or during protein assembly.

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Recommended Citation

Zhang, Wei, "Role of phosphatidylethanolamine in the function and assembly of phenylalanine-specific permease of Escherichia coli" (2003). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3115902.