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The Distribution of Lipid Attached Spin Probes in Bilayers: Application to Membrane Protein Topology

  • Alexander Vogel
  • Holger A. Scheidt
  • Daniel Huster
Biophysical Society
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2003
  • Biology


The distribution of the lipid-attached doxyl electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spin label in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine membranes has been studied by 1H and 13C magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance relaxation measurements. The doxyl spin label was covalently attached to the 5th, 10th, and 16th carbons of the sn-2 stearic acid chain of a 1-palmitoyl-2-stearoyl-(5/10/16-doxyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine analog. Due to the unpaired electron of the spin label, 1H and 13C lipid relaxation rates are enhanced by paramagnetic relaxation. For all lipid segments the influence of paramagnetic relaxation is observed even at low probe concentrations. Paramagnetic relaxation rates provide a measure for the interaction strength between lipid segments and the doxyl group. Plotted along the membrane director a transverse distribution profile of the EPR probe is obtained. The chain-attached spin labels are broadly distributed in the membrane with a maximum at the approximate chain position of the probe. Both 1H and 13C relaxation measurements show these broad distributions of the doxyl group in the membrane indicating that 1H spin diffusion does not influence the relaxation measurements. The broad distributions of the EPR label result from the high degree of mobility and structural heterogeneity in liquid-crystalline membranes. Knowing the distribution profiles of the EPR probes, their influence on relaxation behavior of membrane inserted peptide and protein segments can be studied by 13C magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance. As an example, the location of Ala residues positioned at three sites of the transmembrane WALP-16 peptide was investigated. All three doxyl-labeled phospholipid analogs induce paramagnetic relaxation of the respective Ala site. However, for well ordered secondary structures the strongest relaxation enhancement is observed for that doxyl group in the closest proximity to the respective Ala. Thus, this approach allows study of membrane insertion of protein segments with respect to the high molecular mobility in liquid-crystalline membranes.

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