Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

Conformational Flexibility in the Transmembrane Protein TSPO.

PMID 26394723


The translocator protein (TSPO) is an integral membrane protein that interacts with a wide variety of endogenous ligands, such as cholesterol and porphyrins, and is also the target for several small molecules with substantial in vivo efficacy. When complexed with the TSPO-specific radioligand (R)-PK11195, TSPO folds into a rigid five-helix bundle. However, little is known about the structure and dynamics of TSPO in the absence of high-affinity ligands. By means of NMR spectroscopy, we show that TSPO exchanges between multiple conformations in the absence of (R)-PK11195. Extensive motions on time scales from pico- to microseconds occur all along the primary sequence of the protein, leading to a loss of stable tertiary interactions and local unfolding of the helical structure in the vicinity of the ligand-binding site. The flexible nature of TSPO highlights the importance of conformational plasticity in integral membrane proteins.