In order to identify strong transmembrane helix packing motifs, we have selected transmembrane domains exhibiting high-affinity homo-oligomerization from a randomized sequence library based on the right-handed dimerization motif of glycophorin A. Sequences were isolated using the TOXCAT system, which measures transmembrane helix-helix association in the Escherichia coli inner membrane. Strong selection was applied to a large range of sequences ( approximately 10(7) possibilities) and resulted in the identification of sequence patterns that mediate high-affinity helix-helix association. The most frequent motif isolated, GxxxG, occurs in over 80% of the isolates. Additional correlations suggest that flanking residues act in concert with the GxxxG motif, and that size complementarity is maintained at the interface, consistent with the idea that the identified sequence patterns represent packing motifs. The convergent identification of similar sequence patterns from an analysis of the transmembrane domains in the SwissProt sequence database suggests that these packing motifs are frequently utilized in naturally occurring helical membrane proteins.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.