Understanding the role of amphipathic helices in N-BAR domain driven membrane remodeling

Biophys J. 2013 Jan 22;104(2):404-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.12.006.


Endophilin N-BAR (N-terminal helix and Bin/amphiphysin/Rvs) domain tubulates and vesiculates lipid membranes in vitro via its crescent-shaped dimer and four amphipathic helices that penetrate into membranes as wedges. Like F-BAR domains, endophilin N-BAR also forms a scaffold on membrane tubes. Unlike F-BARs, endophilin N-BARs have N-terminal H0 amphipathic helices that are proposed to interact with other N-BARs in oligomer lattices. Recent cryo-electron microscopy reconstructions shed light on the organization of the N-BAR lattice coats on a nanometer scale. However, because of the resolution of the reconstructions, the precise positioning of the amphipathic helices is still ambiguous. In this work, we applied a coarse-grained model to study various membrane remodeling scenarios induced by endophilin N-BARs. We found that H0 helices of N-BARs prefer to align in an antiparallel manner at two ends of the protein to form a stable lattice. The deletion of H0 helices causes disruption of the lattice. In addition, we analyzed the persistence lengths of the protein-coated tubes and found that the stiffness of endophilin N-BAR-coated tubules qualitatively agrees with previous experimental work studying N-BAR-coated tubules. Large-scale simulations on membrane liposomes revealed a systematic relation between H0 helix density and local membrane curvature fluctuations. The data also suggest that the H0 helix is required for BARs to form organized structures on the liposome, further illustrating its important function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / chemistry*
  • Acyltransferases / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Liposomes / metabolism
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Protein Stability
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rats


  • Liposomes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • amphiphysin
  • Acyltransferases
  • 2-acylglycerophosphate acyltransferase