Importance of phosphatidylethanolamine for association of protein kinase C and other cytoplasmic proteins with membranes

Mohammad D. Bazzi, M. Angelique Youakim, Gary L. Nelsestuen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Biological membranes exhibit an asymmetric distribution of phospholipids. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an acidic phospholipid that is found almost entirely on the interior of the cell where it is important for interaction with many cellular components. A less well understood phenomenon is the asymmetry of the neutral phospholipids, where phosphatidylcholine (PC) is located primarily on exterior membranes while phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is located primarily on interior membranes. The effect of these neutral phospholipids on protein-phospholipid associations was examined using four cytoplasmic proteins that bind to membranes in a calcium-dependent manner. With membranes containing PS at a charge density characteristic of cytosolic membranes, protein kinase C and three other proteins with molecular masses of 64, 32, and 22 kDa all showed great selectively for membranes containing PE rather than PC as the neutral phospholipid; the calcium requirements for membrane-protein association of the 64- and 32-kDa proteins were about 10-fold lower with membranes containing PE; binding of the 22-kDa protein to membranes required the presence of PE and could not even be detected with membranes containing PC. Variation of the PS/PE ratio showed that membranes containing about 20% PS/60% PE provided optimum conditions for binding and were as effective as membranes composed of 100% PS. Thus, PE, as a phospholipid matrix, eliminated the need for membranes with high charge density and/or reduced the calcium concentrations needed for protein-membrane association. A surprising result was that PKC and the 64- and 32-kDa proteins were capable of binding to neutral membranes composed entirely of PE/PC or PC only. The different phospholipid headgroups altered only the calcium required for membrane-protein association. For example, calcium concentrations at the midpoint for association of the 64-kDa protein with membranes containing PS, PE/PC, or PC occurred at 6, 100, and 20000 μM, respectively. Thus, biological probes detected major differences in the surface properties of membranes containing PE versus PC, despite the fact that both of these neutral phospholipids are often thought to provide "inert" matrices for the acidic phospholipids. The selectivity for membranes containing PE could be a general phenomenon that is applicable to many cytoplasmic proteins. The present study suggested that the strategic location of PE on the interior of the membranes may be necessary to allow some membrane-protein associations to occur at physiological levels of calcium and PS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1134
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992


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