Phosphatidylcholines (PtdChos) comprise the most common phospholipid class in eukaryotic cells. In mammalian cells, these insoluble molecules are transferred between membranes by a highly specific phosphatidylcholine transfer protein (PC-TP) belonging to the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein related transfer (START) domain superfamily of hydrophobic ligand-binding proteins. The crystal structures of human PC-TP in complex with dilinoleoyl-PtdCho or palmitoyl-linoleoyl-PtdCho reveal that a single well-ordered PtdCho molecule occupies a centrally located tunnel. The positively charged choline head group of the lipid engages in cation-π interactions within a cage formed by the faces of three aromatic residues. These binding determinants and those for the phosphoryl group may be exposed to the lipid headgroup at the membrane-water interface by a conformational change involving the amphipathic C-terminal helix and an Ω-loop. The structures presented here provide a basis for rationalizing the specificity of PC-TP for PtdCho and may identify common features used by START proteins to bind their hydrophobic ligands.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Structural Biology