Characterization by NMR and molecular modeling of the binding of polyisoprenols and polyisoprenyl recognition sequence peptides: 3D structure of the complexes reveals sites of specific interactions

Glycobiology. 2003 Feb;13(2):51-71. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwg008. Epub 2002 Nov 1.


The objective of these studies was to test the hypothesis that proteins that contain potential polyisoprenyl recognition sequences (PIRSs) in their transmembrane-spanning domain can bind to the polyisoprenyl (PI) glycosyl carrier lipids undecaprenyl phosphate (C55-P) and dolichyl phosphate (C95-P). A number of prokaryotic and eukaryotic glycosyltransferases that utilize PI coenzymes contain a conserved PIRS postulated to be the active PI binding domain. To study this problem, we first determined the 3D structure of a PIRS peptide, NeuE, by homonuclear 2D 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Experimentally generated distance constraints derived from nuclear Overhauser enhancement and torsion angle constraints derived from coupling constants were used for restrained molecular dynamics and energy minimization calculations. Molecular models of the NeuE peptide were built based on calculations of energy minimization using the DGII program NMRchitect. 3D models of dolichol (C95) and C95-P were built based on our 2D 1H-NMR nuclear Overhauser enhancement spectroscopy (NOESY) results and refined by energy minimization with respect to all atoms using the AMBER (assisted modeling with energy refinements) force field. Our energy minimization studies were carried out on a conformational model of dolichol that was originally derived from small-angle X-ray scattering and molecular mechanics methods. These results revealed that the PIs are conformationally nearly identical tripartite molecules, with their three domains arranged in a coiled, helical structure. Analyses of the intermolecular cross-peaks in the 2D NOESY spectra of PIRS peptides in the presence of PIs confirmed a highly specific interaction and identified key contact amino acids in the NeuE peptide that constituted a binding motif for interacting with the PIs. These studies also showed that subtle conformational changes occurred within both the PIs and the NeuE peptide after binding. 3D structures of the resulting molecular complexes revealed that each PI could bind more than one PIRS peptide. These studies thus represent the first evidence for a direct physical interaction between specific contact amino acids in the PIRS peptides and the PIs and supports the hypothesis of a bifunctional role for the PIs. The central idea is that these superlipids may serve as a structural scaffold to organize and stabilize in functional domains PIRS-containing proteins within multiglycosyltransferase complexes that participate in biosynthetic and translocation processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dolichol Phosphates / chemistry
  • Dolichol Phosphates / metabolism
  • Dolichols / chemistry
  • Dolichols / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry*
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / chemistry
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Dolichol Phosphates
  • Dolichols
  • Oligopeptides
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Proteins
  • dolichol monophosphate