Breaking the Backbone: Central Arginine Residues Induce Membrane Exit and Helix Distortions within a Dynamic Membrane Peptide
by McKay, M. J.; Fu, R. Q.; Greathouse, D. V.; Koeppe, R. E.
Transmembrane domains of membrane proteins sometimes contain conserved charged or ionizable residues which may be essential for protein function and regulation. This work examines the molecular interactions of single Arg residues within a highly dynamic transmembrane peptide helix. To this end, we have modified the GW(4,20)ALP23 (acetyl-GGA-W-4(AL)(7)AW(20)AGA-amide) model peptide framework to incorporate Arg residues near the center of the peptide. Peptide helix formation, orientation and dynamics were analyzed by means of solid-state NMR spectroscopy to monitor specific H-2- or N-15-labeled residues. GW(4,20)ALP23 itself adopts a tilted orientation within lipid bilayer membranes. Nevertheless, the GW(4,20)ALP23 helix exhibits moderate to high dynamic averaging of NMR observables, such as H-2 quadrupolar splittings or N-15-H-1 dipolar couplings, due to competition between the interfacial Trp residues on opposing helix faces. Here we examine how the helix dynamics are impacted by the introduction of a single Arg residue at position 12 or 14. Residue R14 restricts the helix to low dynamic averaging and a well-defined tilt that varies inversely with the lipid bilayer thickness. To compensate for the dominance of R14, the competing Trp residues cause partial unwinding of the helix at the C-terminal. By contrast, R(12)GW(4,20)ALP23 exits the DOPC bilayer to an interfacial surface-bound location. Interestingly, multiple orientations are exhibited by a single residue, Ala-9. Quadrupolar splittings generated by H-2-labeled residues A3, A5, A7, and A9 do not fit to the alpha-helical quadrupolar wave plot defined by residues A11, A13, A15, A17, A19, and A21. The discontinuity at residue A9 implicates a helical swivel distortion and an apparent 3(10)-helix involving the N-terminal residues preceding A11. These molecular features suggest that, while arginine residues are prominent factors controlling transmembrane helix dynamics, the influence of interfacial tryptophan residues cannot be ignored.