Vpu transmembrane peptide structure obtained by site-specific Fourier transform infrared dichroism and global molecular dynamics searching
The recently developed method of site-directed Fourier transform infrared dichroism for obtaining orientational constraints of oriented polymers is applied here to the transmembrane domain of the vpu protein from the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). The infrared spectra of the 31-residue-long vpu peptide reconstituted in lipid vesicles reveal a predominantly alpha-helical structure. The infrared dichroism data of the C-13-labeled peptide yielded a helix tilt beta = (6.5 +/- 1.7)degrees from the membrane normal. The rotational pitch angle omega, defined as zero for a residue located in the direction of the helix tilt, is omega = (283 +/- 11)degrees for the C-13 labels Va(13)/Val(20) and omega = (23 +/- 11)degrees for the C-13 labels Ala(14)/Val(21). A global molecular dynamics search protocol restraining the helix tilt to the experimental value was performed for oligomers of four, five, and six subunits. From 288 structures for each oligomer, a left-handed pentameric coiled coil was obtained, which best fits the experimental data. The structure reveals a pore occluded by Trp residues at the intracellular end of the transmembrane domain.