Effect of cholesterol and charge on pore formation in bilayer vesicles by a pH-sensitive peptide

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The effect of cholesterol on the bilayer partitioning of the peptide GALA (WEAALAEALAEALAEHLAEALAE-ALEALAA) and its assembly into a pore in large unilamellar vesicles composed of neutral and negatively charged phospholipids has been determined. GALA undergoes a conformational change from a random coil to an amphipathic α-helix when the pH is reduced from 7.0 to 5.0, inducing at low pH leakage of contents from vesicles. Leakage from neutral or negatively charged vesicles at pH 5.0 was similar and could be adequately explained by the mathematical model (Parente, R. A., S. Nir, and F. C. Szoka, Jr., 1990. Mechanism of leakage of phospholipid vesicle contents induced by the peptide GALA. Biochemistry. 29:8720-8728) which assumed that GALA becomes incorporated into the vesicle bilayer and irreversibly aggregates to form a pore consisting of 10 ± 2 peptides. Increasing cholesterol content in the membranes resulted in a reduced efficiency of the peptide to induce leakage. Part of the cholesterol effect was due to reduced binding of the peptide to cholesterol-containing membranes. An additional effect of cholesterol was to increase reversibility of surface aggregation of the peptide in the membrane. Results could be explained and predicted with a model that retains the same pore size, i.e., 10 ± 2 peptides, but includes reversible aggregation of the monomers to form the pore. Resonance energy transfer experiments using fluorescently labeled peptides confirmed that the degree of reversibility of surface aggregation of GALA was significantly larger in cholesterol- containing liposomes, thus reducing the efficiency of pore formation.




Nicol, F., Nir, S., & Szoka, F. C. (1996). Effect of cholesterol and charge on pore formation in bilayer vesicles by a pH-sensitive peptide. Biophysical Journal, 71(6), 3288–3301. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(96)79521-8

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