Chemical synthesis and characterization of peptides and oligomeric proteins designed to form transmembrane ion channels

TAKEO IWAMOTO, Kansas State University
ANNE GROVE, University of California, San Diego
MYRTA OBLATT MONTAL, University of California, San Diego
MAURICIO MONTAL, University of California, San Diego
JOHN M. TOMICH, Kansas State University


A strategy for the synthesis of peptides and oligomeric proteins designed to form transmembrane ion channels is described. A folding motif that exhibits a functional ionic pore encompasses amphipathic α‐helices organized as a four‐helix bundle around a central hydrophilic pore. The channel‐forming activity of monomeric amphipathic peptides may be examined after reconstitution in lipid bilayers in which peptides self‐assemble into conductive oligomers. The covalent attachment of channel‐forming peptides to the lysine ε‐amino groups of a template molecule (KKKPGKEKG) specifies oligomeric number and facilitates the study of ionic permeation and channel blockade. Here we describe detailed protocols for the total synthesis of peptides and template‐assembled four‐helix bundle proteins, exemplified with the sequence of M2δ (EKM‐STAISVLLAQAVFLLLTSQR), considered involved in lining the pore of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor channel. For comparison, the synthesis of a second four‐helix bundle, T4CaIVS3 with the sequence of predicted transmembrane segment S3 (DPWNVFDFLIVIGSIIDVILSE) of the fourth repeat of the l‐type voltage‐gated calcium channel, is included. Peptides and proteins are synthesized step‐wise by solid‐phase methods, purified by reversed‐phase HPLC, and homogeneity ascertained by analytical HPLC, capillary zone electrophoresis, SDS/PAGE, amino acid analysis and sequencing. Optimization of synthetic procedures for hydrophobic molecules include reducing resin substitution to avoid steric hindrance and aggregation of the final product. Protocols for the preparation of the samples prior to HPLC purification as well as the conditions and columns required for successful purification are presented. The methods developed are generally applicable for the chemical synthesis, purification and characterization of amphipathic peptides and template directed helical bundle proteins. Copyright © 1994, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved