Influence of High pH and Cholesterol on Single Arginine-Containing Transmembrane Peptide Helices

Biochemistry. 2016 Nov 15;55(45):6337-6343. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.6b00896. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


An essential component of mammalian cells, cholesterol exerts significant influence on the physical properties of the cell membrane and in turn its constituents, including membrane proteins. Although sparse, polar amino acid residues are highly conserved in membrane proteins and play pivotal roles in determining specific structural and functional properties. To improve our understanding of particular polar residues in the membrane environment, we have examined two specific "guest" Arg residues within a well-defined and deuterium-labeled "host" framework provided by the transmembrane helical peptide GWALP23 (acetyl-GGALWLALALALALALALWLAGA-amide). Solid-state 2H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra from aligned bilayer membrane samples effectively report changes in the host helix properties because of the incorporation of the guest residues. The focus of this work is two-pronged. First, GWALP23-R14 was examined over a pH range of 2-13 in 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) ester- or ether-linked bilayer membranes. Our findings indicate that the Arg guanidinium side chain remains charged over this entire range, in agreement with numerous molecular dynamics simulations. Second, GWALP23-R12 and GWALP23-R14 peptides were characterized in DOPC bilayers with varying cholesterol content. Our findings suggest that 10 or 20% cholesterol content has minimal impact on the orientation of the R14 peptide. Although the NMR signals are broader and weaker in the presence of 20% cholesterol, the deuterium quadrupolar splittings for [2H]Ala residues in GWALP23-R14 change very little. Conversely, cholesterol appears to modulate the multistate behavior of GWALP23-R12 and to favor a major interfacial state for the helix, bound at the bilayer surface. These results indicate a conditional sensitivity of a complex multistate transmembrane Arg-containing peptide helix to the presence of cholesterol.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arginine / chemistry
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / chemistry
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry
  • Protein Structure, Secondary


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Arginine
  • Cholesterol
  • 1,2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine