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Open Access pH-sensitive Self-associations of the N-terminal Domain of NBCe1-A Suggest a Compact Conformation under Acidic Intracellular Conditions

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NBCe1-A is an integral membrane protein that cotransports Na+ and HCO3 - ions across the basolateral membrane of the proximal tubule. It is essential for maintaining a homeostatic balance of cellular and blood pH. In X-ray diffraction studies, we reported that the cytoplasmic, N-terminal domain of NBCe1-A (NtNBCe1-A) is a dimer. Here, biophysical measurements show that the dimer is in a concentration-dependent dynamic equilibrium among three additional states in solution that are characterized by its hydrodynamic properties, molar masses, emission spectra, binding properties, and stabilities as a function of pH. Under physiological conditions, dimers are in equilibrium with monomers that are pronounced at low concentration and clusters of molecular masses up to 3-5 times that of a dimer that are pronounced at high concentration. The equilibrium can be influenced so that individual dimers predominate in a taut conformation by lowering the pH. Conversely, dimers begin to relax and disassociate into an increasing population of monomers by elevating the pH. A mechanistic diagram for the inter-conversion of these states is given. The self-associations are further supported by surface plasmon resonance (SPR-Biacore) techniques that illustrate NtNBCe1-A molecules transiently bind with one another. Bicarbonate and bicarbonate-analog bisulfite appear to enhance dimerization and induce a small amount of tetramers. A model is proposed, where the Nt responds to pH or bicarbonate fluctuations inside the cell and plays a role in self-association of entire NBCe1-A molecules in the membrane.
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Keywords: NBCe1; SLC4; X-ray diffraction studies; basolateral membrane; bicarbonate; cotransporter; homeostatic balance; hydrodynamic properties; light scattering; surface plasmon resonance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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  • Protein & Peptide Letters publishes short papers in all important aspects of protein and peptide research, including structural studies, recombinant expression, function, synthesis, enzymology, immunology, molecular modeling, drug design etc. Manuscripts must have a significant element of novelty, timeliness and urgency that merit rapid publication. Reports of crystallisation, and preliminary structure determinations of biologically important proteins are acceptable. Purely theoretical papers are also acceptable provided they provide new insight into the principles of protein/peptide structure and function.
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