Structure and dynamics of micelle-bound neuropeptide Y: comparison with unligated NPY and implications for receptor selection

J Mol Biol. 2001 Jan 12;305(2):307-29. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2000.4264.


The biological importance of the neuropeptide Y (NPY) has steered a number of investigations about its solution structure over the last 20 years. Here, we focus on the comparison of the structure and dynamics of NPY free in solution to when bound to a membrane mimetic, dodecylphosphocholine (DPC) micelles, as studied by 2D (1)H NMR spectroscopy. Both, free in solution and in the micelle-bound form, the N-terminal segment (Tyr1-Glu15) is shown to extend like a flexible tail in solution. This is not compatible with the PP-fold model for NPY that postulates backfolding of the flexible N terminus onto the C-terminal helix. The correlation time (tau(c)) of NPY in aqueous solution, 5.5 (+/-1.0) ns at 32 degrees C, is only consistent with its existence in a dimeric form. Exchange contributions especially enhancing transverse relaxation rates (R(2)) of residues located on one side of the C-terminal helix of the molecule are supposed to originate from dimerization of the NPY molecule. The dimerization interface was directly probed by looking at (15)N-labeled NPY/spin-labeled [TOAC34]-[(14)N]-NPY heterodimers and revealed both parallel and anti-parallel alignment of the helices. The NMR-derived three-dimensional structure of micelle-bound NPY at 37 degrees C and pH 6.0 is similar but not identical to that free in solution. The final set of 17 lowest-energy DYANA structures is particularly well defined in the region of residues 21-31, with a mean pairwise RMSD of 0.23 A for the backbone heavy atoms and 0.85 A for all heavy atoms. The combination of NMR relaxation data and CD measurements clearly demonstrates that the alpha-helical region Ala18-Thr32 is more stable, and the C-terminal tetrapeptide becomes structured only in the presence of the phosphocholine micelles. The position of NPY relative to the DPC micelle surface was probed by adding micelle integrating spin labels. Together with information from (1)H,(2)H exchange rates, we conclude that the interaction of NPY with the micelle is promoted by the amphiphilic alpha-helical segment of residues Tyr21-Thr32. NPY is located at the lipid-water interface with its C-terminal helix parallel to the membrane surface and penetrates the hydrophobic interior only via insertions of a few long aliphatic or aromatic side-chains. From these data we can demonstrate that the dimer interface of neuropeptide Y is similar to the interface of the monomer binding to DPC-micelles. We speculate that binding of the NPY monomer to the membrane is an essential key step preceeding receptor binding, thereby pre-orientating the C-terminal tetrapeptide and possibly inducing the bio-active conformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Dimerization
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Micelles*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neuropeptide Y / chemistry*
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Phosphorylcholine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism
  • Pliability
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y / metabolism*
  • Solutions
  • Spin Labels
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Swine
  • Thermodynamics


  • Ligands
  • Micelles
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y
  • Solutions
  • Spin Labels
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • dodecylphosphocholine
  • Hydrogen