Structural characterization of cardiolipin-driven activation of cytochrome c into a peroxidase and membrane perturbation

Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr. 2018 May;1860(5):1057-1068. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2018.01.009. Epub 2018 Jan 6.


The interaction between cardiolipin (CL) and cytochrome c (cyt-c) results in a gain of function of peroxidase activity by cyt-c. Despite intensive research, disagreements on nature and molecular details of this interaction remain. In particular, it is still not known how the interaction triggers the onset of apoptosis. Enzymatic characterization of peroxidase activity has highlighted the need for a critical threshold concentration of CL, a finding of profound physiological relevance in vivo. Using solution NMR, fluorescence spectroscopy, and in silico modeling approaches we here confirm that full binding of cyt-c to the membrane requires a CL:cyt-c threshold ratio of 5:1. Among three binding sites, the simultaneous binding of two sites, at two opposing sides of the heme, provides a mechanism to open the heme crevice to substrates. This results in "productive binding" in which cyt-c then sequesters CL, inducing curvature in the membrane. Membrane perturbation along with lipid peroxidation, due to interactions of heme/CL acyl chains, initiates the next step in the apoptotic pathway of making the membrane leaky. The third CL binding site while allowing interaction with the membrane, does not cluster CL or induce subsequent events, making this interaction "unproductive".

Keywords: Apoptosis; Coarse grained simulation; Conformational changes; Protein-lipid interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cardiolipins / chemistry
  • Cardiolipins / metabolism*
  • Cytochromes c / chemistry
  • Cytochromes c / genetics
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism*
  • Horses
  • Membranes / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Peroxidase / chemistry
  • Peroxidase / genetics
  • Peroxidase / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs / genetics
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Unilamellar Liposomes


  • Cardiolipins
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • Cytochromes c
  • Peroxidase