Regulation of ghrelin structure and membrane binding by phosphorylation

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The peptide hormone ghrelin requires Ser-3 acylation for receptor binding, orexigenic and anti-inflammatory effects. Functions of desacylghrelin are less well understood. In vitro kinase assays reveal that the evolutionarily conserved Ser-18 in the basic C-terminus is an excellent substrate for protein kinase C. Circular dichroism reveals that desacylghrelin is ∼12% helical in aqueous solution and ∼50% helical in trifluoroethanol. Ser-18-phosphorylation, Ser-18-Ala substitution, or Ser-3-acylation reduces the helical character in trifluoroethanol to ∼24%. Both ghrelin and desacylghrelin bind to phosphatidylcholine:phosphatidylserine sucrose-loaded vesicles in a phosphatidylserine-dependent manner. Phosphoghrelin and phosphodesacylghrelin show greatly diminished phosphatidylserine-dependent binding. These results are consistent with binding of ghrelin and desacylghrelin to acidic lipids via the basic face of an amphipathic helix with Ser-18 phosphorylation disrupting both helical character and membrane binding.

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