Sequence determinants of a transmembrane proton channel: an inverse relationship between stability and function

J Mol Biol. 2005 Mar 18;347(1):169-79. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.01.023. Epub 2005 Jan 21.


The driving forces behind the folding processes of integral membrane proteins after insertion into the bilayer, is currently under debate. The M2 protein from the influenza A virus is an ideal system to study lateral association of transmembrane helices. Its proton selective channel is essential for virus functioning and a target of the drug amantadine. A 25 residue transmembrane fragment of M2, M2TM, forms a four-helix bundle in vivo and in various detergents and phospholipid bilayers. Presented here are the energetic consequences for mutations made to the helix/helix interfaces of the M2TM tetramer. Analytical ultracentrifugation has been used to determine the effect of ten single-site mutations, to either alanine or phenylalanine, on the oligomeric state and the free energy of M2TM in the absence and the presence of amantadine. It was expected that many of these mutations would perturb the M2TM stability and tetrameric integrity. Interestingly, none of the mutations destabilize tetramerization. This finding suggests that M2 sacrifices stability to preserve its functions, which require rapid and specific interchange between distinct conformations involved in gating and proton conduction. Mutations might therefore restrict the full range of conformations by stabilizing a given native or non-native conformational state. In order to assess one specific conformation of the tetramer, we measured the binding of amantadine to the resting state of the channel, and examined the overall free energy of assembly of the amantadine bound tetramer. All of the mutations destabilized amantadine binding or were isoenergetic. We also find that large to small residue changes destabilize the amantadine bound tetramer whereas mutations to side-chains of similar volume stabilize this conformation. A structural model of the amantadine bound state of M2TM was generated using a novel protocol that optimizes a structure for an ensemble of neutral and disruptive mutations. The model structure is consistent with the mutational data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amantadine / metabolism
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Ion Channels / chemistry*
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary*
  • Protons*
  • Ultracentrifugation
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / metabolism


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ion Channels
  • M2 protein, Influenza A virus
  • Peptides
  • Protons
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Amantadine