A model for hydrophobic protrusions on peripheral membrane proteins
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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With remarkable spatial and temporal specificities, peripheral membrane proteins bind to biological membranes. They do this without compromising solubility of the protein, and their binding sites are not easily distinguished. Prototypical peripheral membrane binding sites display a combination of patches of basic and hydrophobic amino acids that are also frequently present on other protein surfaces. The purpose of this contribution is to identify simple but essential components for membrane binding, through structural criteria that distinguish exposed hydrophobes at membrane binding sites from those that are frequently found on any protein surface. We formulate the concepts of protruding hydrophobes and co-insertability and have analysed more than 300 families of proteins that are classified as peripheral membrane binders. We find that this structural motif strongly discriminates the surfaces of membrane-binding and non-binding proteins. Our model constitutes a novel formulation of a structural pattern for membrane recognition and emphasizes the importance of subtle structural properties of hydrophobic membrane binding sites.