Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

Single-Molecule Peptide-Lipid Affinity Assay Reveals Interplay between Solution Structure and Partitioning.

PMID 28343391


Interactions between short protein segments and phospholipid bilayers dictate fundamental aspects of cellular activity and have important applications in biotechnology. Yet, the lack of a suitable methodology for directly probing these interactions has hindered the mechanistic understanding. We developed a precision atomic force microscopy-based single-molecule force spectroscopy assay and probed partitioning into lipid bilayers by measuring the mechanical force experienced by a peptide. Protein segments were constructed from the peripheral membrane protein SecA, a key ATPase in bacterial secretion. We focused on the first 10 amino-terminal residues of SecA (SecA2-11) that are lipophilic. In addition to the core SecA2-11 sequence, constructs with nearly identical chemical composition but with differing geometry were used: two copies of SecA2-11 linked in series and two copies SecA2-11 linked in parallel. Lipid bilayer partitioning interactions of peptides with differing structures were distinguished. To model the energetic landscape, a theory of diffusive barrier crossing was extended to incorporate a superposition of potential barriers with variable weights. Analysis revealed two dissociation pathways for the core SecA2-11 sequence with well-separated intrinsic dissociation rates. Molecular dynamics simulations showed that the three peptides had significant conformational differences in solution that correlated well with the measured variations in the propensity to partition into the bilayer. The methodology is generalizable and can be applied to other peptide and lipid species.

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