Modulation of reconstituted pig kidney Na+/K(+)-ATPase activity by cholesterol in endogenous lipid vesicles: role of lipid domains

Biochemistry. 2006 Nov 21;45(46):13855-68. doi: 10.1021/bi061351e.


Diverse experimental and theoretical evidence suggests that plasma membranes contain cholesterol-induced segregated domains that could play a key role in the modulation of membrane functions, including intrinsic enzyme activity. To gain insight into the role of cholesterol, we reconstituted pig kidney Na+/K+-ATPase into unilamellar vesicles of endogenous lipids mimicking the natural membrane and addressed the question of how modification of the cholesterol content could affect the ATPase activity via changes in the membrane lipid phase and in the protein structure and dynamics. We used steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy with the lipid phase probes DPH and Laurdan and the protein probe fluorescein and also used infrared spectroscopy using attenuated total reflectance. Upon modification of membrane cholesterol content, the ATPase activity did not change monotonically but instead exhibited abrupt changes resulting in two peaks at or close to critical cholesterol mole fractions (25 and 33.3 mol %) predicted by the superlattice or regular distribution model. Fluorescence parameters associated with the membrane probes also showed abrupt changes with peaks, coincident with the cholesterol concentrations associated with the peaks in the enzyme activity, while parameters associated with the protein probes also showed slight but abrupt changes resulting in dips at the same cholesterol concentrations. Notably, the IR amide I band maximum also showed spectral shifts, characterized by a frequency variation pattern with peaks at the same cholesterol concentrations. Overall, these results indicate that the lipid phase had slightly lower hydration, at or near the two critical cholesterol concentrations predicted by the superlattice theory. However, in the protein domains monitored there was a slight but significant hydration increase along with increased peptide backbone flexibility at these cholesterol concentrations. We propose that in the vicinity of the critical mole fractions, where superlattice formation can occur, minute changes in cholesterol concentration produce abrupt changes in the membrane organization, increasing interdomain surfaces. These changes, in turn, induce small changes in the protein's structure and dynamics, therefore acting to fine-tune the enzyme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / physiology*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / chemistry
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Swine


  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase