Unusual thermal disassembly of the SPFH domain oligomer from Pyrococcus horikoshii

Biophys J. 2009 Oct 7;97(7):2034-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.07.034.


Stomatin, prohibitin, flotillin, and HflK/C (SPFH) domain proteins are membrane proteins that are widely conserved from bacteria to mammals. The molecular functions of these proteins have not been established. In mammals, the domain is often found in raft-associated proteins such as flotillin and podocin. We determined the structure of the SPFH domain of PH0470 derived from Pyrococcus horikoshii using NMR. The structure closely resembles that of the SPFH domain of the paralog PH1511, except for two C-terminal helices. The results show that the SPFH domain forms stable dimers, trimers, tetramers, and multimers, although it lacks the coiled-coil region for oligomerization, which is a highly conserved region in this protein family. The oligomers exhibited unusual thermodynamic behavior, as determined by circular dichroism, NMR, gel filtration, chemical cross-linking, and analytical ultracentrifugation. The oligomers were converted into monomers when they were heated once and then cooled. This transition was one-way and irreversible. We propose a mechanism of domain swapping for forming dimers as well as successive oligomers. The results of this study provide what to our knowledge are new insights into the common molecular function of the SPFH domain, which may act as a membrane skeleton through oligomerization by domain swapping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Archaeal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Pyrococcus horikoshii*
  • Solutions
  • Temperature*
  • Ultracentrifugation


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Solutions