The synaptic vesicle protein synaptobrevin (also called VAMP, vesicle-associated membrane protein) forms part of the SNARE (soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptor) complex, which is essential for vesicle fusion. Additionally, the synaptobrevin transmembrane domain can promote lipid mixing independently of complex formation. Here, the conformation of the transmembrane domain was studied by using circular dichroism and attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. The synaptobrevin transmembrane domain has an alpha-helical structure that breaks in the juxtamembrane region, leaving the cytoplasmic domain unstructured. In phospholipid bilayers, infrared dichroism data indicate that the transmembrane domain adopts a 36 degrees angle with respect to the membrane normal, similar to that reported for viral fusion peptides. A conserved aromatic/basic motif in the juxtamembrane region may be causing this relatively high insertion angle.
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