Ionic interactions promote transmembrane helix-helix association depending on sequence context

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Folding and oligomerization of integral membrane proteins frequently depend on specific interactions of transmembrane helices. Interacting amino acids of helix-helix interfaces may form complex motifs and exert different types of molecular forces. Here, a set of strongly self-interacting transmembrane domains (TMDs), as isolated from a combinatorial library, was found to contain basic and acidic residues, in combination with polar nonionizable amino acids and C-terminal GxxxG motifs. Mutational analyses of selected sequences and reconstruction of high-affinity interfaces confirmed the cooperation of these residues in homotypic interactions. Probing heterotypic interaction indicated the presence of interhelical charge-charge interactions. Furthermore, simple motifs of an ionizable residue and GxxxG are significantly overrepresented in natural TMDs, and a specific combination of these motifs exhibits high-affinity heterotypic interaction. We conclude that intramembrane charge-charge interactions depend on sequence context. Moreover, they appear important for homotypic and heterotypic interactions of numerous natural TMDs. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.




Herrmann, J. R., Fuchs, A., Panitz, J. C., Eckert, T., Unterreitmeier, S., Frishman, D., & Langosch, D. (2010). Ionic interactions promote transmembrane helix-helix association depending on sequence context. Journal of Molecular Biology, 396(2), 452–461.

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