Interaction of N-terminal peptide analogues of the Na+,K+-ATPase with membranes

The Na+,K+-ATPase, which is present in the plasma membrane of all animal cells, plays a crucial role in maintaining the Na+ and K+ electrochemical potential gradients across the membrane. Recent studies have suggested that the N-terminus of the protein’s catalytic α-subunit is involved in an electrostatic interaction with the surrounding membrane, which controls the protein’s conformational equilibrium. However, because the N-terminus could not yet be resolved in any X-ray crystal structures, little information about this interaction is so far available. In measurements utilising poly-l-lysine as a model of the protein’s lysine-rich N-terminus and using lipid vesicles of defined composition, here we have identified the most likely origin of the interaction as one between positively charged lysine residues of the N-terminus and negatively charged headgroups of phospholipids (notably phosphatidylserine) in the surrounding membrane. Furthermore, to isolate which segments of the N-terminus could be involved in membrane binding, we chemically synthesized N-terminal fragments of various lengths. Based on a combination of results from RH421 UV/visible absorbance measurements and solid-state 31P and 2H NMR using these N-terminal fragments as well as MD simulations it appears that the membrane interaction arises from lysine residues prior to the conserved LKKE motif of the N-terminus. The MD simulations indicate that the strength of the interaction varies significantly between different enzyme conformations.

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