Sarcolipin and phospholamban inhibit the calcium pump by populating a similar metal ion-free intermediate state

L. Michel Espinoza-Fonseca, Joseph M. Autry, David D. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We have performed microsecond molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and protein pKa calculations of the muscle calcium pump (sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ -ATPase, SERCA) in complex with sarcolipin (SLN) to determine the mechanism by which SLN inhibits SERCA. SLN and its close analog phospholamban (PLN) are membrane proteins that regulate SERCA by inhibiting Ca2+ transport in skeletal and cardiac muscle. Although SLN and PLB binding to SERCA have different functional outcomes on the coupling efficiency of SERCA, both proteins decrease the apparent Ca2+ affinity of the pump, suggesting that SLN and PLB inhibit SERCA by using a similar mechanism. Recently, MD simulations showed that PLB inhibits SERCA by populating a metal ion-free, partially-protonated E1 state of the pump, E1 · H+771· X-ray crystallography studies at 40-80 mM Mg2+ have proposed that SLN-bound SERCA populates E1 · Mg2+, an intermediate with Mg2+ bound near transport site I. To test this proposed mode of SLN regulation, we performed a 0.5-ms MD simulation of E1·Mg2+ -SLN in a solution containing 100 mM K+ and 3 mM Mg2+ , with calculation of domain dynamics in the cytosolic headpiece and side-chain ionization and occupancy in the transport sites. We found that SLN increases the distance between residues E771 and D800, thereby rendering E1·Mg2+ incapable of producing a competent Ca2+ transport site I. Following removal of Mg2+, a 2-ms MD simulation of Mg2+ -free SERCA-SLN showed that Mg2+ does not re-bind to the transport sites, indicating that SERCA-SLN does not populate E1·Mg2+ at physiological conditions. Instead, protein pKa calculations indicate that SLN stabilizes a metal ion-free SERCA state (E1·H+771) protonated at residue E771, but ionized at E309 and D800. We conclude that both SLN and PLB inhibit SERCA by populating a similar metal ion-free intermediate state. We propose that (i) this partiallyprotonated intermediate serves as the consensus mechanism for SERCA inhibition by other members of the SERCA regulatory subunit family including myoregulin and sarcolamban, and (ii) this consensus mechanism is utilized to regulate Ca2+ transport in skeletal and cardiac muscle, with important implications for therapeutic approaches to muscle dystrophy and heart failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-41
Number of pages5
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • CaAtpase
  • Calcium dysregulation
  • Molecular dynamics simulations
  • Phospholamban
  • Sarcolipin


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