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The molecular recognition of phosphatidic acid by an amphipathic helix in Opi1

By Harald F Hofbauer, Michael Gecht, Sabine C. Fischer, Anja Seybert, Achilleas S Frangakis, Ernst H. K. Stelzer, Roberto Covino, Gerhard Hummer, Robert Ernst

Posted 18 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/250019 (published DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201802027)

A key event in cellular physiology is the decision between membrane biogenesis and fat storage. Phosphatidic acid (PA) is an important lipid intermediate and signaling lipid at the branch point of these pathways and constantly monitored by the transcriptional repressor Opi1 to orchestrate lipid metabolism. Here, we report on the mechanism of membrane recognition by Opi1 and identify an amphipathic helix (AH) for the selective binding to membranes containing PA over phosphatidylserine (PS). The insertion of the AH into the hydrophobic core of the membrane renders Opi1 sensitive to the lipid acyl chain composition as an important factor contributing to the regulation of membrane biogenesis. Based on these findings, we rationally designed the membrane binding properties of Opi1 to control its responsiveness in the physiological context. Using extensive molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we identified two PA-selective three-finger grips that tightly bind the phosphate headgroup, while interacting less intimately and more transiently with PS. This work establishes lipid headgroup selectivity as a new feature in the family of AH-containing membrane property sensors.

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