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The association of hemagglutinin (HA) with lipid rafts in the plasma membrane is an important feature of the assembly process of influenza virus A. Lipid rafts are thought to be small, fluctuating patches of membrane enriched in saturated phospholipids, sphingolipids, cholesterol and certain types of protein. However, raft-associating transmembrane (TM) proteins generally partition into Ld domains in model membranes, which are enriched in unsaturated lipids and depleted in saturated lipids and cholesterol. The reason for this apparent disparity in behavior is unclear, but model membranes differ from the plasma membrane in a number of ways. In particular, the higher protein concentration in the plasma membrane may influence the partitioning of membrane proteins for rafts. To investigate the effect of high local protein concentration, we have conducted coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CG MD) simulations of HA clusters in domain-forming bilayers. During the simulations, we observed a continuous increase in the proportion of raft-type lipids (saturated phospholipids and cholesterol) within the area of membrane spanned by the protein cluster. Lateral diffusion of unsaturated lipids was significantly attenuated within the cluster, while saturated lipids were relatively unaffected. On this basis, we suggest a possible explanation for the change in lipid distribution, namely that steric crowding by the slow-diffusing proteins increases the chemical potential for unsaturated lipids within the cluster region. We therefore suggest that a local aggregation of HA can be sufficient to drive association of the protein with raft-type lipids. This may also represent a general mechanism for the targeting of TM proteins to rafts in the plasma membrane, which is of functional importance in a wide range of cellular processes.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003034

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date

04/2013

Volume

9

Keywords

Algorithms, Cell Membrane, Computational Biology, Diffusion, Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus, Influenza A Virus, H3N8 Subtype, Lipid Bilayers, Lipids, Membrane Microdomains, Membrane Proteins, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Protein Binding, Protein Structure, Tertiary