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The first transmembrane (TM1) helix in the red cell anion exchanger (AE1, Band 3, or SLC4A1) acts as an internal signal anchor that binds the signal recognition particle and directs the nascent polypeptide chain to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane where it moves from the translocon laterally into the lipid bilayer. The sequence N-terminal to TM1 forms an amphipathic helix that lies at the membrane interface and is connected to TM1 by a bend at Pro403. Southeast Asian ovalocytosis (SAO) is a red cell abnormality caused by a nine-amino acid deletion (Ala400-Ala408) at the N-terminus of TM1. Here we demonstrate, by extensive (∼4.5 μs) molecular dynamics simulations of TM1 in a model 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine membrane, that the isolated TM1 peptide is highly dynamic and samples the structure of TM1 seen in the crystal structure of the membrane domain of AE1. The SAO deletion not only removes the proline-induced bend but also causes a "pulling in" of the part of the amphipathic helix into the hydrophobic phase of the bilayer, as well as the C-terminal of the peptide. The dynamics of the SAO peptide very infrequently resembles the structure of TM1 in AE1, demonstrating the disruptive effect the SAO deletion has on AE1 folding. These results provide a precise molecular view of the disposition and dynamics of wild-type and SAO TM1 in a lipid bilayer, an important early biosynthetic intermediate in the insertion of AE1 into the ER membrane, and extend earlier results of cell-free translation experiments.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





712 - 722


Amino Acid Sequence, Anion Exchange Protein 1, Erythrocyte, Base Sequence, Elliptocytosis, Hereditary, Erythrocytes, Gene Expression, Humans, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Membranes, Artificial, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Phosphatidylcholines, Proline, Protein Domains, Protein Folding, Protein Structure, Secondary, Sequence Deletion