This report describes a method suitable for determining the depth of a wide variety of fluorescent molecules embedded in membranes. The method involves determination of the parallax in the apparent location of fluorophores detected when quenching by phospholipids spin-labeled at two different depths is compared. By use of straightforward algebraic expressions, the method allows calculation of depth in angstroms. Furthermore, the analysis can be extended to quenching by energy-transfer acceptors or brominated probes under appropriate conditions. Application of the method to quenching of 7-nitro-2,1,3-benzoxadiazol-4-yl (NBD)-labeled lipids by spin-labeled lipids located at three different depths is demonstrated in model membranes. It is shown that the calculated depths of the NBD groups are self-consistent to the extent that they are the same no matter which two spin-labels have been used in a particular experiment. In addition, the calculated depth is independent of spin-label concentration in the membrane within +/- 1 A, ruling out major effects due to spin-label perturbation. The quenching experiments show that the location of the NBD group in head-group-labeled phosphatidylethanolamine is at the polar/hydrocarbon interface and that of an NBD label on the "tail" of cholesterol is deeply buried, as expected. Unexpectedly, NBD labels placed at the end of fatty acyl chains of phosphatidylcholines are also near the polar/hydrocarbon interface. Presumably, the polarity of the NBD group results in "looping" back to the surface of the NBD groups attached to flexible acyl chains.
Melittin is the principal toxic component in the venom of the European honey bee Apis mellifera and is a cationic, hemolytic peptide. It is a small linear peptide composed of 26 amino acid residues in which the amino-terminal region is predominantly hydrophobic whereas the carboxy-terminal region is hydrophilic due to the presence of a stretch of positively charged amino acids. This amphiphilic property of melittin has resulted in melittin being used as a suitable model peptide for monitoring lipid-protein interactions in membranes. In this review, the solution and membrane properties of melittin are highlighted, with an emphasis on melittin-membrane interaction using biophysical approaches. The recent applications of melittin in various cellular processes are discussed.
The linear peptide gramicidin forms prototypical ion channels specific for monovalent cations and has been extensively used to study the organization, dynamics and function of membrane-spanning channels. In recent times, the availability of crystal structures of complex ion channels has challenged the role of gramicidin as a model membrane protein and ion channel. This review focuses on the suitability of gramicidin as a model membrane protein in general, and the information gained from gramicidin to understand lipid-protein interactions in particular. Special emphasis is given to the role and orientation of tryptophan residues in channel structure and function and recent spectroscopic approaches that have highlighted the organization and dynamics of the channel in membrane and membrane-mimetic media.
Melittin is a cationic hemolytic peptide isolated from the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Since the association of the peptide in the membrane is linked with its physiological effects, a detailed understanding of the interaction of melittin with membranes is crucial. We have investigated the interaction of melittin with membranes of varying surface charge in the context of recent studies which show that the presence of negatively charged lipids in the membrane inhibits membrane lysis by melittin. The sole tryptophan residue in melittin has previously been shown to be critical for its hemolytic activity. The organization and dynamics of the tryptophan residue thus become important to understand the peptide activity in membranes of different charge types. Wavelength-selective fluorescence was utilized to monitor the tryptophan environment of membrane-bound melittin. Melittin exhibits a red edge excitation shift (REES) of 5 nm when bound to zwitterionic membranes while in negatively charged membranes, the magnitude of REES is reduced to 2-3 nm. Further, wavelength dependence of fluorescence polarization and near-UV circular dichroism spectra reveal characteristic differences in the tryptophan environment for melittin bound to zwitterionic and anionic membranes. These studies are supported by time-resolved fluorescence measurements of membrane-bound melittin. Tryptophan penetration depths for melittin bound to zwitterionic and anionic membranes were analyzed by the parallax method [Chattopadhyay, A., and London, E. (1987) Biochemistry 26, 39-45] utilizing differential fluorescence quenching obtained with phospholipids spin-labeled at two different depths. Our results provide further insight into molecular details of membrane lysis by melittin and the modulation of lytic activity by negatively charged lipids.
The serotonin(1A) (5-HT(1A)) receptor is an important member of the superfamily of seven-transmembrane domain G-protein-coupled receptors. We have examined the modulatory role of cholesterol on the ligand binding activity and G-protein coupling of the bovine hippocampal 5-HT(1A) receptor by depleting cholesterol from native membranes using methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MbetaCD). Removal of cholesterol from bovine hippocampal membranes using varying concentrations of MbetaCD results in a concentration-dependent reduction in specific binding of the agonist 8-OH-DPAT to 5-HT(1A) receptors. This is accompanied by alterations in binding affinity and sites obtained from analysis of binding data. Importantly, cholesterol depletion affected G-protein-coupling of the receptor as monitored by the GTP-gamma-S assay. The concomitant changes in membrane order were reported by changes in fluorescence polarization of membrane probes such as DPH and TMA-DPH, which are incorporated at different locations (depths) in the membrane. Replenishment of membranes with cholesterol led to recovery of ligand binding activity as well as membrane order to a considerable extent. Our results provide evidence, for the first time, that cholesterol is necessary for ligand binding and G-protein coupling of this important neurotransmitter receptor. These results could have significant implications in understanding the influence of the membrane lipid environment on the activity and signal transduction of other G-protein-coupled transmembrane receptors.
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