The glycolipid transfer protein (GLTP) fold defines a superfamily of eukaryotic proteins that selectively transport sphingolipids (SLs) between membranes. However, the mechanisms determining the protein selectivity for specific glycosphingolipids (GSLs) are unclear. Here, we report the crystal structure of the GLTP homology (GLTPH) domain of human 4-phosphate adaptor protein 2 (FAPP2) bound with N-oleoyl-galactosylceramide. Using this domain, FAPP2 transports glucosylceramide from its cis-Golgi synthesis site to the trans-Golgi for conversion into complex GSLs. The FAPP2-GLTPH structure revealed an element, termed the ID loop, that controls specificity in the GLTP family. We found that, in accordance with FAPP2 preference for simple GSLs, the ID loop protrudes from behind the SL headgroup-recognition center to mitigate binding by complex GSLs. Mutational analyses including GLTP and FAPP2 chimeras with swapped ID loops supported the proposed restrictive role of the FAPP2 ID loop in GSL selectivity. Comparative analysis revealed distinctly designed ID loops in each GLTP family member. This analysis also disclosed a conserved H-bond triplet that "clasps" both ID-loop ends together to promote structural autonomy and rigidity. The findings indicated that various ID loops work in concert with conserved recognition centers to create different specificities among family members. We also observed four bulky, conserved hydrophobic residues involved in "sensor-like" interactions with lipid chains in protein hydrophobic pockets and FF motifs in GLTP and FAPP2, well-positioned to provide acyl chain-dependent SL selectivity for the hydrophobic pockets. In summary, our study provides mechanistic insights into sphingolipid recognition by the GLTP fold and uncovers the elements involved in this recognition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in whole or part by National Institutes of Health Grants GM45928 from NIGMS, CA121493 from NCI, and HL125353 from NHLBI; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacion Grant BFU2010-17711; Russian Foundation for Basic Research Grant 14-04-01671; CIC bioGUNE funds; the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Trust; the Maloris and Hormel Foundations; and the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with the contents of this article. The con-tent is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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