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Protein contents in biological membranes can explain abnormal solvation of charged and polar residues.
Stockholm University.
Stockholm University.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2734-2794
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 106, no 37, 15684-9 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transmembrane helices are generally believed to insert into membranes based on their hydrophobicity. Nevertheless, there are important exceptions where polar residues have great functional importance, for instance the S4 helix of voltage-gated ion channels. It has been shown experimentally that insertion can be accomplished by hydrophobic counterbalance, predicting an arginine insertion cost of only 2.5 kcal/mol, compared with 14.9 kcal/mol in cyclohexane. Previous simulations of pure bilayers have produced values close to the pure hydrocarbon, which has lead to spirited discussion about the experimental conditions. Here, we have performed computer simulations of models better mimicking biological membranes by explicitly including protein helices at mass fractions from 15% to 55%, as well as an actual translocon. This has a striking effect on the solvation free energy of arginine. With some polar residues present, the solvation cost comes close to experimental observation at approximately 30% mass fraction, and negligible at 40%. In the presence of a translocon in the membrane, the cost of inserting arginine next to the lateral gate can be as low as 3-5 kcal/mol. The effect is mainly due to the extra helices making it easier to retain hydration water. These results offer a possible explanation for the discrepancy between the in vivo hydrophobicity scale and computer simulations and highlight the importance of the high protein contents in membranes. Although many membrane proteins are stable in pure bilayers, such simplified models might not be sufficiently accurate for insertion of polar or charged residues in biological membranes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 106, no 37, 15684-9 p.
National Category
Theoretical Chemistry
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-82594DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905394106ISI: 000269806600034PubMedID: 19805218OAI: diva2:498388
QC 20120213Available from: 2012-02-12 Created: 2012-02-12 Last updated: 2012-02-13Bibliographically approved

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Lindahl, Erik
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