Membrane lipids are both the substrates and a mechanistically responsive environment of TMEM16 scramblase proteins

J Comput Chem. 2020 Mar 5;41(6):538-551. doi: 10.1002/jcc.26105. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Recent discoveries about functional mechanisms of proteins in the TMEM16 family of phospholipid scramblases have illuminated the dual role of the membrane as both the substrate and a mechanistically responsive environment in the wide range of physiological processes and genetic disorders in which they are implicated. This is highlighted in the review of recent findings from our collaborative investigations of molecular mechanisms of TMEM16 scramblases that emerged from iterative functional, structural, and computational experimentation. In the context of this review, we present new MD simulations and trajectory analyses motivated by the fact that new structural information about the TMEM16 scramblases is emerging from cryo-EM determinations in lipid nanodiscs. Because the functional environment of these proteins in in vivo and in in vitro is closer to flat membranes, we studied comparatively the responses of the membrane to the TMEM16 proteins in flat membranes and nanodiscs. We find that bilayer shapes in the nanodiscs are very different from those observed in the flat membrane systems, but the function-related slanting of the membrane observed at the nhTMEM16 boundary with the protein is similar in the nanodiscs and in the flat bilayers. This changes, however, in the bilayer composed of longer-tail lipids, which is thicker near the phospholipid translocation pathway, which may reflect an enhanced tendency of the long tails to penetrate the pathway and create, as shown previously, a nonconductive environment. These findings support the correspondence between the mechanistic involvement of the lipid environment in the flat membranes, and the nanodiscs. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: CTMD method; cryo-EM structure determination; functional mechanisms of TMEM16 scramblases; lipid nanodiscs; lipid-dependent gating of TMEM16 scramblases; membrane remodeling; molecular dynamics (MD) simulation; phospholipid scramblases; protein-membrane interactions; time-structure Independent Component Analysis (tICA).

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

  • Anoctamins / chemistry*
  • Anoctamins / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins / chemistry*
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins / metabolism


  • Anoctamins
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins