BUNDLE: A program for building the transmembrane domains of G-protein-coupled receptors

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Abstract

Summary

The only information available at present about the structural features of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) comes from low resolution electron density maps of rhodopsin obtained from electron microscopy studies on 2D crystals. Despite their low resolution, maps can be used to extract information about transmembrane helix relative positions and their tilt. This information, together with a reliable algorithm to assess the residues involved in each of the membrane spanning regions, can be used to construct a 3D model of the transmembrane domains of rhodopsin at atomic resolution. In the present work, we describe an automated procedure applicable to generate such a model and, in general, to construct a 3D model of any given GPCR with the only assumption that it adopts the same helix arrangement as in rhodopsin. The present approach avoids uncertainties associated with other procedures available for constructing models of GPCRs based on a template, since sequence identity among GPCRs of different families in most of the cases is not significant. The steps involved in the construction of the model are: (i) locate the centers of the helices according to the low-resolution electron density map; (ii) compute the tilt of each helix based on the elliptical shape observed by each helix in the map; (iii) define a local coordinate system for each of the helices; (iv) bring them together in an antiparallel orientation; (v) rotate each helix through the helical axis in such a way that its hydrophobic moment points in the same direction of the bisector formed between three consecutive helices in the bundle; (vi) rotate each helix through an axis perpendicular to the helical one to assign a proper tilt; and (vii) translate each helix to its center deduced from the projection map.

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