Distinct protein interfaces in transmembrane domains suggest an in vivo folding model

Timothy J. Stevens*, Kenji Mizuguchi, Isaiah T. Arkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Given the known high-resolution structures of α-helical transmembrane domains, we show that there are statistically distinct classes of transmembrane interfaces which relate to the folding and oligomerization of transmembrane domains. Distinct types of interfaces have been categorized and refer to those between: the same polypeptide chain, different polypeptide chains, helices that are sequential neighbors, and those that are nonsequential. These different interfaces may reflect different phases in the mechanism of transmembrane domain folding and are consistent with the current experimental evidence pertaining to the folding and oligomerization of transmembrane domains. The classes of helix-helix interfaces have been identified in terms of the numbers and different types of pairwise amino acid interactions. The specific measures used are interaction entropy, the information content of interacting partners compared to a random set of contacts, the amino acid composition of the classes and the abundances of specific amino acid pairs in close contact. Knowledge of the clear differences in the types of helix-helix contacts helps with the derivation of knowledge-based constraints which until now have focused on only the interiors of transmembrane domains as compared to the exterior. Taken together, an in vivo model for membrane protein folding is presented, which is distinct from the familiar two-stage model. The model takes into account the different interfaces of membrane helices defined herein, and the available data regarding folding in the translocation channel.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3028-3037
Number of pages10
JournalProtein Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Membrane protein
  • Protein folding
  • Translocon
  • Transmembrane helices


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