Ionization Properties of Histidine Residues in the Lipid Bilayer Membrane Environment

by Martfeld, Ashley N.; Greathouse, Denise V.; Koeppe II, R. Erdman

We address the critically important ionization properties of histidine side chains of membrane proteins, when exposed directly to lipid acyl chains within lipid bilayer membranes. The problem is important for addressing general principles that may underlie membrane protein function. To this end, we have employed a favorable host peptide framework provided by GWALP23 (acetyl-GGALW(5)LALALALALALALW(19)LAGA-amide). We inserted His residues into position 12 or 14 of GWALP23 (replacing either Leu(12) or Leu(14)) and incorporated specific [H-2] Ala labels within the helical core sequence. Solid-state H-2 NMR spectra report the folding and orientation of the core sequence, revealing marked differences in the histidinecontaining transmembrane helix behavior between acidic and neutral pH conditions. At neutral pH, the GWALP23-H12 and GWALP23-H14 helices exhibit well defined tilted transmembrane orientations in dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) and dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC) bilayer membranes. Under acidic conditions, when His(12) is protonated and charged, the GWALP23-H12 helix exhibits a major population that moves to the DOPC bilayer surface and a minor population that occupies multiple transmembrane states. The response to protonation of His(14) is an increase in helix tilt, but GWALP23-H14 remains in a transmembrane orientation. The results suggest pK(a) values of less than 3 for His(12) and about 3-5 for His(14) in DOPC membranes. In the thinner DLPC bilayers, with increased water access, the helices are less responsive to changes in pH. The combined results enable us to compare the ionization properties of lipid-exposed His, Lys, and Arg side chains in lipid bilayer membranes.

Journal of Biological Chemistry
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1083-351X; 0021-9258