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Title: Development of a saposin A based native-like phospholipid bilayer system for NMR studies
Author: Chien, Chih-Ta
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 2731
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Membrane proteins are important targets that represent more than 50% of current drug targets. However, characterisation of membrane proteins falls behind compared to their soluble counterparts. The most challenging part of membrane protein research is finding a suitable membrane mimetic that stabilises them in solution and maintains their native structure and function. The recently developed saposin-A (SapA) based lipid nanoparticle system seems to be advantageous over existing membrane mimetic system. It provides a native-like lipid bilayer, high incorporation yield and more importantly size adaptability. SapA lipid nanoparticles have been applied to structural studies and two high-resolution structures of membrane proteins were previously obtained using cryo-electron microscopy. This thesis aimed to study small-to-medium sized membrane proteins in SapA lipid nanoparticles using NMR spectroscopy. We first explore the mechanism of SapA lipid nanoparticle formation for the purpose of establishing an incorporation protocol that can be applied to most membrane proteins. The effect of pH and the presence of detergents on the opening of SapA was investigated in Chapter 2. A proposed energy diagram describing the mechanism of SapA opening is reported with which we were able to develop a protocol that can generate different sizes of SapA-1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DMPC) nanoparticles. In addition, we also showed that SapA can form lipid nanoparticles with various lipid compositions, showing the versatility of the system. In Chapter 3, we validated the ability of SapA lipid nanoparticles to be used as a membrane mimetic. A -barrel model protein, bacterial outer membrane protein X (OmpX), was incorporated into SapA-DMPC nanoparticles and a 2D 15N-1H correlation NMR spectrum was recorded. Our result was compared to the NMR parameters of the same protein in MSP nanodiscs from the literature, and it was concluded that SapA lipid nanoparticles indeed provide a lipid bilayer environment similar to MSP nanodiscs. Because of high incorporation yield, we were able to incorporate OmpX into different lipid compositions to investigate the effect of lipid head groups and aliphatic chains on the membrane protein's chemical environment. Next, the applicability of SapA lipid nanoparticles was expanded to -helical transmembrane proteins in Chapter 4. Two microbial rhodopsins, Anabaena sensory rhodopsin (ASR) and Natronomonas pharaonis sensory rhodopsin II (pSRII), were tested. The parameters for expression and purification of ASR were first screened for the optimal yield. Although incorporation of ASR resulted in inhomogeneous particles due to imperfect experimental procedure, pSRII in SapA-DMPC nanoparticles showed high sample quality. The 2D NMR spectrum of pSRII in SapA-DMPC nanoparticles shows distinct differences to pSRII in detergent micelles, suggesting substantial effects from the membrane mimetic on the conformation of the membrane protein. Despite the good NMR spectral quality considering the large particle size, perdeuteration of pSRII and the lipids will be necessary for further investigation. With the SapA lipid nanoparticles established, we aimed to use it for the study of a biologically important G protein-coupled receptor, 1-adrenergic receptor (1AR), discussed in Chapter 5. The possibility of expressing 1AR using a cell-free expression system was explored first. Although a good amount of the protein was obtained, only a fraction of it was functional. Therefore, a conventional baculovirus-insect cell expression system was used to produce selective isotope labelled 1AR for NMR studies. NMR spectra of 1AR in SapA-DMPC nanoparticles with activating ligands and an intracellular binding partner were recorded and compared to the spectra of the same protein in detergents. This revealed a more active-like conformation of ligand-bound 1AR in the lipid bilayer, suggesting that certain parts of the protein are sensitive to the membrane mimetic used. This emphasises the importance of using a native-like membrane mimetic to capture the full properties of membrane proteins. In conclusion, I demonstrate in this thesis that SapA lipid nanoparticles are a versatile membrane mimetic system that can accommodate membrane proteins with different sizes and folds. This system is also compatible with solution NMR spectroscopy enabling structure and dynamics studies of biologically important membrane proteins. We believe SapA lipid nanoparticles will have a significant impact on membrane protein research in the future.
Supervisor: Nietlispach, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: NMR spectroscopy ; Nanodiscs ; Membrane protein ; GPCR ; Saposin lipid nanoparticles