The Journal of biological chemistry

The N-terminal domain tethers the voltage-gated calcium channel β2e-subunit to the plasma membrane via electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions.

PMID 24519939


The β-subunit associates with the α1 pore-forming subunit of high voltage-activated calcium channels and modulates several aspects of ion conduction. Four β-subunits are encoded by four different genes with multiple splice variants. Only two members of this family, β2a and β2e, associate with the plasma membrane in the absence of the α1-subunit. Palmitoylation on a di-cysteine motif located at the N terminus of β2a promotes membrane targeting and correlates with the unique ability of this protein to slow down inactivation. In contrast, the mechanism by which β2e anchors to the plasma membrane remains elusive. Here, we identified an N-terminal segment in β2e encompassing a cluster of positively charged residues, which is strictly required for membrane anchoring, and when transferred to the cytoplasmic β1b isoform it confers membrane localization to the latter. In the presence of negatively charged phospholipid vesicles, this segment binds to acidic liposomes dependently on the ionic strength, and the intrinsic fluorescence emission maxima of its single tryptophan blue shifts considerably. Simultaneous substitution of more than two basic residues impairs membrane targeting. Coexpression of the fast inactivating R-type calcium channels with wild-type β2e, but not with a β2e membrane association-deficient mutant, slows down inactivation. We propose that a predicted α-helix within this domain orienting parallel to the membrane tethers the β2e-subunit to the lipid bilayer via electrostatic interactions. Penetration of the tryptophan side chain into the lipidic core stabilizes the membrane-bound conformation. This constitutes a new mechanism for membrane anchoring among the β-subunit family that also sustains slowed inactivation.