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Membrane-associated proteins do care about lipids - perspective based on atomistic moloecular dynamics simulations

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


Original languageEnglish
PublisherTampere University of Technology
Number of pages83
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-15-3380-8
ISBN (Print)978-952-15-3362-4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2014
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampere University of Technology. Publication
PublisherTampere University of Technology
ISSN (Print)1459-2045


This thesis consists of three original articles that deal with lipid-protein interactions investigated using atomistic molecular dynamics simulations method, which in some cases were complemented with experimental data. Since very few molecular details of these important interactions are known, the data shown in this thesis can help to understand and develop a broader view on the role of lipids in protein's function. In the first part of this thesis, the membrane-binding part of the COMT protein was studied using the atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. The results indicate that the role of the transmembrane helix and the linker part of this protein is to enclose the enzymatic part of the protein in the close vicinity of the membrane, and therefore to keep it in the specific membrane-water interface environment. Moreover, the particular kind of protein fold, which includes a specific salt bridge in the linker part of the protein, was found in almost all of the simulations, and this information was evaluated further to reveal that this can be the general folding motif for all similar proteins that possess one transmembrane helix and a short linker part that joins it with the rest of the protein. By continuation of the urge to explain the role of the membrane in enzymatic function of COMT, another idea was also investigated: namely, the suggestion that ligands for that enzyme might have different characteristics in regard to their affinity to how the membrane was evaluated, to check whether the membrane binding part of COMT role is indeed meant to make it more accessible to those ligands which stay close to the membrane. This idea was studied with the atomistic molecular dynamics simulations where two COMT ligands—dopamine and L-dopa—were simulated with the membranes of various compositions, and furthermore the results were validated by experiments. The data from that study was consistent with the suggested idea of preferential binding of some ligands to lipids, but also this finding has been shown to have more possible implications for the neurotransmission process and other highly important physiological processes. The second part of this work focuses on the role of cholesterol in hydrophobic matching of peptides and the resulting sorting of transmembrane peptides according to their hydrophobic length. Experimental data from collaborating team suggested that under negative mismatch and the presence of cholesterol in membranes, peptides could laterally sort. Nevertheless, molecular mechanisms of that were unclear. Atomistic molecular dynamics simulations performed for this part of the thesis revealed that cholesterol increases the significance of the negative hydrophobic mismatch, and thus it shifts preference of proteins in such conditions to cluster into domains to minimize the mismatch. In the second part of this study, extended atomistic molecular dynamics simulations showed that cholesterol has a preference to stay in the vicinity of the peptide under negative mismatch when compared to a positive mismatch case. Even more strikingly, cholesterol orientates around the negatively mismatched peptide in a special geometrical configuration with its rough side exposed in the direction of peptide. In summation, studies for this work demonstrated a view on some aspects of the lipid-protein interactions at the molecular level retrieved through the atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. Importantly, many of the aspects presented here were validated with experiments or suggested explanation for the phenomena observed beforehand by experimental methods. Certainly, lipids are important for the function of proteins, and as it is shown in this thesis, joining experimental and computational approach is a very good way to understand this complicated interplay better and to provide atomistic details of these dynamic processes.

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Field of science, Statistics Finland

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