Membrane proteins are a large and important class of proteins. They are responsible for several of the key functions in a living cell, e.g. transport of nutrients and ions, cell-cell signaling, and cell-cell adhesion.
Despite their importance it has not been possible to study their structure and organization in much detail because of the difficulty to obtain 3D structures.
In this thesis theoretical studies of membrane protein sequences and structures have been carried out by analyzing existing experimental data. The data comes from several sources including sequence databases, genome sequencing projects, and 3D structures. Prediction of the membrane spanning regions by hydrophobicity analysis is a key technique used in several of the studies. A novel method for this is also presented and compared to other methods.
The primary questions addressed in the thesis are: What properties are common to all membrane proteins? What is the overall architecture of a membrane protein? What properties govern the integration into the membrane? How many membrane proteins are there and how are they distributed in different organisms? Several of the findings have now been backed up by experiments.
An analysis of the large family of G-protein coupled receptors pinpoints differences in length and amino acid composition of loops between proteins with and without a signal peptide and also differences between extra- and intracellular loops. Known 3D structures of membrane proteins have been studied in terms of hydrophobicity, distribution of secondary structure and amino acid types, position specific residue variability, and differences between loops and membrane spanning regions.
An analysis of several fully and partially sequenced genomes from eukaryotes, prokaryotes, and archaea has been carried out. Several differences in the membrane protein content between organisms were found, the most important being the total number of membrane proteins and the distribution of membrane proteins with a given number of transmembrane segments. Of the properties that were found to be similar in all organisms, the most obvious is the bias in the distribution of positive charges between the extra- and intracellular loops.
Finally, an analysis of homologues to membrane proteins with known topology uncovered two related, multi-spanning proteins with opposite predicted orientations. The predicted topologies were verified experimentally, providing a first example of "divergent topology evolution".
Stockholm: Institutionen för biokemi och biofysik , 1999. , 48 p.
1999-11-12, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 12 A, Stockholm, 10:00