A conserved sequence in the small intracellular loop of tetraspanins forms an M-shaped inter-helix turn
Reppert, N., & Lang, T.
Biochemistry, Structural biology
Tetraspanins are a family of small proteins with four transmembrane segments (TMSs) playing multiple roles in human physiology. Nevertheless, we know little about the factors determining their structure. In the study at hand, we focus on the small intracellular loop (SIL) between TMS2 and TMS3. There we have identified a conserved five amino acid core region with three charged residues forming an M-shaped backbone, which we call M-motif. The M´s plane runs parallel to the membrane surface and the central amino acid constitutes the inter-helix turning point. At the second position of the M-motif, in tetraspanin crystal structures we identified a glutamate oriented towards a lysine in the juxtamembrane region of TMS1. Using Tspan17 as example, we find that by mutating either the glutamate or juxtamembrane-lysine, but not upon glutamate/lysine swapping, expression level, maturation and ER-exit are reduced. We conclude that the SIL is more than a short linking segment but propose it is involved in shaping the tertiary structure of tetraspanins.