Specificity in transmembrane helix-helix interactions mediated by aromatic residues

Neta Sal-Man, Doron Gerber, Itai Bloch, Yechiel Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Aromatic residues have been previously shown to mediate the self-assembly of different soluble proteins through π-π interactions (McGaughey, G. B., Gagne, M., and Rappe, A. K. (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 15458-15463). However, their role in transmembrane (TM) assembly is not yet clear. In this study, we performed statistical analysis of the frequency of occurrence of aromatic pairs in a bacterial TM data base that provided an initial indication that the appearance of a specific aromatic pattern, Aromatic-XX-Aromatic, is not coincidental, similar to the well characterized QXXS motif. The QXXS motif was previously shown to be both critical and sufficient for stabilizing TM self-assembly. Using the ToxR system, we monitored the dimerization propensities of TM domains that contain mutations of interacting residues to aromatic amino acids and demonstrated that aromatic residues can adequately stabilize self-association. Importantly, we have provided an example of a natural TM domain, the cholera toxin secretion protein EpsM, whose TM self-assembly is mediated by an aromatic motif (WXXW). This is, in fact, the first evidence that aromatic residues are involved in the dimerization of a wild type TM domain. The association mediated by aromatic residues was found to be sensitive to the TM sequence, suggesting that aromatic residue motifs can provide a general means for specificity in TM assembly. Molecular dynamics provided a structural explanation for this backbone sequence sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19753-19761
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Specificity in transmembrane helix-helix interactions mediated by aromatic residues'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this