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Structural and Mechanistic Motifs in Membrane Proteins: The Three-Dimensional Modelling of Rhodopsin, Band 3, and the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


Vogelaar, Nancy Swick (1989) Structural and Mechanistic Motifs in Membrane Proteins: The Three-Dimensional Modelling of Rhodopsin, Band 3, and the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/mgah-n841.


Because so little is known about the structure of membrane proteins, an attempt has been made in this work to develop techniques by which to model them in three dimensions. The procedures devised rely heavily upon the availability of several sequences of a given protein. The modelling procedure is composed of two parts. The first identifies transmembrane regions within the protein sequence on the basis of hydrophobicity, β-turn potential, and the presence of certain amino acid types, specifically, proline and basic residues. The second part of the procedure arranges these transmembrane helices within the bilayer based upon the evolutionary conservation of their residues. Conserved residues are oriented toward other helices and variable residues are positioned to face the surrounding lipids. Available structural information concerning the protein's helical arrangement, including the lengths of interhelical loops, is also taken into account. Rhodopsin, band 3, and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor have all been modelled using this methodology, and mechanisms of action could be proposed based upon the resulting structures.

Specific residues in the rhodopsin and iodopsin sequences were identified, which may regulate the proteins' wavelength selectivities. A hinge-like motion of helices M3, M4, and M5 with respect to the rest of the protein was proposed to result in the activation of transducin, the G-protein associated with rhodopsin. A similar mechanism is also proposed for signal transduction by the muscarinic acetylcholine and β-adrenergic receptors.

The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor was modelled with four trans-membrane helices per subunit and with the five homologous M2 helices forming the cation channel. Putative channel-lining residues were identified and a mechanism of channel-opening based upon the concerted, tangential rotation of the M2 helices was proposed.

Band 3, the anion exchange protein found in the erythrocyte membrane, was modelled with 14 transmembrane helices. In general the pathway of anion transport can be viewed as a channel composed of six helices that contains a single hydrophobic restriction. This hydrophobic region will not allow the passage of charged species, unless they are part of an ion-pair. An arginine residue located near this restriction is proposed to be responsible for anion transport. When ion-paired with a transportable anion it rotates across the barrier and releases the anion on the other side of the membrane. A similar process returns it to its original position. This proposed mechanism, based on the three-dimensional model, can account for the passive, electroneutral, anion exchange observed for band 3. Dianions can be transported through a similar mechanism with the additional participation of a histidine residue. Both residues are located on M10.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Chemistry
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Goddard, William A., III (advisor)
  • Chan, Sunney I. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Goddard, William A., III (chair)
  • Chan, Sunney I.
  • Marsh, Richard Edward
  • Baldeschwieler, John D.
Defense Date:7 December 1988
Additional Information:Title in 1989 commencement program -- Structural and Mechanistic Motifs in Membrane Proteins -- is different from title in thesis file (PDF).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
U.S. Public Health ServiceGM-22432
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:08272013-134530519
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7948
Deposited On:27 Aug 2013 21:26
Last Modified:06 Jan 2022 22:33

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