Liver fatty acid-binding protein (FABP) is able to bind to anionic phospholipid vesicles under conditions of low ionic strength. This binding results in the release of ligand, the fluorescent fatty acid analogue 11-dansylaminoundecanoic acid (DAUDA), with loss of fluorescence intensity (Davies, J. K., Thumser, A. E. A., and Wilton, D. C. (1999) Biochemistry 38,16932-16940). Using a strategy of charge reversal mutagenesis, the potential role of specific cationic residues in promoting interfacial binding of FABP to anionic phospholipid vesicles has been investigated. Cationic residues chosen included those within the a-helical region (Lys-20, Lys-31, and Lys-33) and those that make a significant contribution to the positive surface potential of the protein (Lys-31, Lys-36, Lys-47, Lys-57, and Arg-126). Only three cationic residues make a significant contribution to interfacial binding, and these residues (Lys-31, Lys-36, and Lys-57) are all located within the ligand portal region, where the protein may be predicted to exhibit maximum disorder. The binding of tryptophan mutants, F3W, F18W, and C69W, to dioleoylphosphatidylglycerol vesicles, containing 5 mol% of the fluorescent phospholipid dansyldihexadecanoylphosphatidylethanolamine, was monitored by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). All three mutants showed enhanced dansyl fluorescence due to FRET on addition of phospholipid to protein; however, this fluorescence was considerably greater with the F3W mutant, consistent with the N-terminal region of the protein coming in close proximity to the phospholipid interface. These results were confirmed by succinimide quenching studies. Overall, the results indicate that the portal region of liver FABP and specifically Lys-31, Lys-36, and Lys-57 are involved in the interaction with the interface of anionic vesicles and that the N-terminal region of the protein undergoes a conformational change, resulting in DAUDA release
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