Lipid composition determines the physical properties of biological membranes and can vary substantially between and within organisms. We describe a specific role for the viscosity of energy-transducing membranes in cellular respiration. Engineering of fatty acid biosynthesis in Escherichia coli allowed us to titrate inner membrane viscosity across a 10-fold range by controlling the abundance of unsaturated or branched lipids. These fluidizing lipids tightly controlled respiratory metabolism, an effect that can be explained with a quantitative model of the Electron Transport Chain (ETC) that features diffusion-coupled reactions between enzymes and electron carriers (quinones). Lipid unsaturation also modulated mitochondrial respiration in engineered budding yeast strains. Thus, diffusion in the ETC may serve as an evolutionary constraint for lipid composition in respiratory membranes.
Read the full article in Science.
Membrane bilayers are made up of a myriad of different lipids that regulate the functional activity, stability, and oligomerization of many membrane proteins. Despite their importance, screening the structural and functional impact of lipid–protein interactions to identify specific lipid requirements remains a major challenge. Here, we use the FSEC-TS assay to show cardiolipin-dependent stabilization of the dimeric sodium/proton antiporter NhaA, demonstrating its ability to detect specific protein-lipid interactions. Based on the principle of FSEC-TS, we then engineer a simple thermal-shift assay (GFP-TS), which facilitates the high-throughput screening of lipid- and ligand- interactions with membrane proteins. By comparing the thermostability of medically relevant eukaryotic membrane proteins and a selection of bacterial counterparts, we reveal that eukaryotic proteins appear to have evolved to be more dependent to the presence of specific lipids.
Read the full article in Nature Communications.
Royal Society Publishing has recently published a special issue of Interface Focus entitled “The artificial cell: biology-inspired compartmentalization of chemical function”, organised by Paul A Beales, Barbara Ciani and Stephen Mann.
This issue is based on a Royal Society Theo Murphy meeting held on the 26–27 February 2018. The articles reveal the rich diversity of research currently being undertaken in the field of artificial cell design and construction, and highlight the challenges that lie ahead.
The articles are FREE TO ACCESS here.