Structural organization and interactions of transmembrane domains in tetraspanin proteins

Kovalenko, Oleg V.; Metcalf, Douglas G.; DeGrado, William F.; Hemler, Martin E.
January 2005
BMC Structural Biology;2005, Vol. 5, p11
Academic Journal
Background: Proteins of the tetraspanin family contain four transmembrane domains (TM1-4) linked by two extracellular loops and a short intracellular loop, and have short intracellular N- and C-termini. While structure and function analysis of the larger extracellular loop has been performed, the organization and role of transmembrane domains have not been systematically assessed. Results: Among 28 human tetraspanin proteins, the TM1-3 sequences display a distinct heptad repeat motif (abcdefg)n. In TM1, position a is occupied by structurally conserved bulky residues and position d contains highly conserved Asn and Gly residues. In TM2, position a is occupied by conserved small residues (Gly/Ala/Thr), and position d has a conserved Gly and two bulky aliphatic residues. In TM3, three a positions of the heptad repeat are filled by two leucines and a glutamate/ glutamine residue, and two d positions are occupied by either Phe/Tyr or Val/Ile/Leu residues. No heptad motif is apparent in TM4 sequences. Mutations of conserved glycines in human CD9 (Gly25 and Gly32 in TM1; Gly67 and Gly74 in TM2) caused aggregation of mutant proteins inside the cell. Modeling of the TM1-TM2 interface in CD9, using a novel algorithm, predicts tight packing of conserved bulky residues against conserved Gly residues along the two helices. The homodimeric interface of CD9 was mapped, by disulfide cross-linking of single-cysteine mutants, to the vicinity of residues Leu14 and Phe17 in TM1 (positions g and c) and Gly77, Gly80 and Ala81 in TM2 (positions d, g and a, respectively). Mutations of a and d residues in both TM1 and TM2 (Gly25, Gly32, Gly67 and Gly74), involved in intramolecular TM1-TM2 interaction, also strongly diminished intermolecular interaction, as assessed by cross-linking of Cys80. Conclusion: Our results suggest that tetraspanin intra- and intermolecular interactions are mediated by conserved residues in adjacent, but distinct regions of TM1 and TM2. A key structural element that defines TM1-TM2 interaction in tetraspanins is the specific packing of bulky residues against small residues.


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