Influence of Proline Residues in Transmembrane Helix Packing
Integral membrane proteins often contain proline residues in their Î±-helical transmembrane (TM) fragments, which may strongly influence their folding and association. Pro-scanning mutagenesis of the helical domain of glycophorin A (GpA) showed that replacement of the residues located at the center abrogates helix packing while substitution of the residues forming the ending helical turns allows dimer formation. Synthetic TM peptides revealed that a point mutation of one of the residues of the dimerization motif (L75P) located at the N-terminal helical turn of the GpA TM fragment, adopts a secondary structure and oligomeric state similar to the wild-type sequence in detergents. In addition, both glycosylation mapping in biological membranes and molecular dynamics showed that the presence of a proline residue at the lipid/water interface has as an effect the extension of the helical end. Thus, helix packing can be an important factor that determines appearance of proline in TM helices. Membrane proteins might accumulate proline residues at the two ends of their TM segments in order to modulate the exposition of key amino acid residues at the interface for molecular recognition events while allowing stable association and native folding.