Extracellular calcium functions as a molecular glue for transmembrane helices to activate the scramblase Xkr4

Nat Commun. 2023 Sep 11;14(1):5592. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40934-2.


The "eat me" signal, phosphatidylserine is exposed on the surface of dying cells by phospholipid scrambling. Previously, we showed that the Xkr family protein Xkr4 is activated by caspase-mediated cleavage and binding of the XRCC4 fragment. Here, we show that extracellular calcium is an additional factor needed to activate Xkr4. The constitutively active mutant of Xkr4 is found to induce phospholipid scrambling in an extracellular, but not intracellular, calcium-dependent manner. Importantly, other Xkr family members also require extracellular calcium for activation. Alanine scanning shows that D123 and D127 of TM1 and E310 of TM3 coordinate calcium binding. Moreover, lysine scanning demonstrates that the E310K mutation-mediated salt bridge between TM1 and TM3 bypasses the requirement of calcium. Cysteine scanning proves that disulfide bond formation between TM1 and TM3 also activates phospholipid scrambling without calcium. Collectively, this study shows that extracellular calcium functions as a molecular glue for TM1 and TM3 of Xkr proteins for activation, thus demonstrating a regulatory mechanism for multi-transmembrane region-containing proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine*
  • Biological Transport
  • Calcium*
  • Caspases
  • Phosphatidylserines


  • Calcium
  • Alanine
  • Caspases
  • Phosphatidylserines