Lipid-dependent topogenesis and function of membrane proteins

Jun Xie, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Membranes are essential for the integrity and function of the cell. The collective property of the lipid bilayer is critical in providing an optimal functioning environment for membrane proteins. The simple yet well-characterized bacterium Escherichia coli serves an ideal model system to study the function of specific lipids since its lipid content can be easily manipulated. The most abundant lipid in E. coli membrane is phosphatidylethanolamine (PE, 70-80%). A PE-lacking E. coli mutant displays a complex mixture of deficient phenotypes, suggesting a profound role for PE in different aspects of cell function. A novel role of PE as a topological and functional determinant for membrane proteins has been established using lactose permease (LacY) as a model protein. PE is found to be required for energy-dependent uphill transport process of LacY. In PE-lacking membranes, LacY undergoes a dramatic conformational change, and the first half of the protein adopts an inverted topology with respect to the bilayer plane. The work reported here was initiated to understand the molecular properties of lipids that enable their function as topological and functional determinants for membrane proteins. A glycolipid, monoglucosyldiacylglycerol (MGlcDAG) which shares physicochemical similarities with PE, was introduced to PE-lacking E. coli membranes. The introduction of MGlcDAG suppresses many of the PE-deficient phenotypes, and in particular supports the function and native topology of LacY. The lipid-sensitive topogenic signals encoded in the amino acid sequence of LacY were also identified. Native LacY adopts an inverted topology when synthesized without PE, but mutation of specific acidic residues in the cytoplasmic extra-membrane domains can prevent this inversion and supports a native topological organization of LacY in PE-lacking membranes. These results suggest that it is the interplay between the collective charge properties of the lipid bilayer and extra-membrane loops of protein that determines the final orientation of transmembrane domains. By comparing the similarities as well as differences between these two lipids, we established how specific physical and chemical properties of lipids influence various cell functions and elucidated the molecular basis for the novel role of lipids in determining membrane protein topology.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Xie, Jun, "Lipid-dependent topogenesis and function of membrane proteins" (2006). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3249210.