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Does Alpha-Helix Folding Necessarily Provide an Energy Source for the Protein-Lipid Binding?

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Lipid-induced α -helix folding, which occurs in many lipid surface-binding proteins and peptides such as apo- lipoproteins and synucleins, has been proposed to provide an energy source for protein-lipid interactions. We propose that in a system comprised of a phospholipid surface and a small polypeptide that is unfolded in solution and binds reversibly to lipid surface, helical folding involves expenditure of free energy as compared to a similar polypeptide that is α -helical in solution. This is a consequence of the entropic cost of helix folding that is illustrated in a simple thermodynamic model and exemplifies the general ”key-into-lock” paradigm of protein-ligand binding. Even though this simple model does not explicitly address the protein-induced lipid re-arrangement and may not directly apply to large proteins that undergo significant tertiary structural changes upon lipid binding, it suggests that the notion of helix folding as an energy source for lipid binding should be treated with caution.

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Keywords: Protein folding; amphipathic α-helix; entropy-enthalpy compensation; lipid binding

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University School of Medicine, W329, 715 Albany Street, Boston MA 02118, USA.

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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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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