Structural characterization of cardiolipin-driven activation of cytochrome c into a peroxidase and membrane perturbation

Dariush Mohammadyani, Naveena Yanamala, Alejandro K. Samhan-Arias, Alexander A. Kapralov, German Stepanov, Nick Nuar, Joan Planas-Iglesias, Narinder Sanghera, Valerian E. Kagan, Judith Klein-Seetharaman

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The interaction between cardiolipin (CL) and cytochrome c (cyt-c) results in a gain of function of peroxidase activity by cyt-c. Despite intensive research, disagreements on nature and molecular details of this interaction remain. In particular, it is still not known how the interaction triggers the onset of apoptosis. Enzymatic characterization of peroxidase activity has highlighted the need for a critical threshold concentration of CL, a finding of profound physiological relevance in vivo. Using solution NMR, fluorescence spectroscopy, and in silico modeling approaches we here confirm that full binding of cyt-c to the membrane requires a CL:cyt-c threshold ratio of 5:1. Among three binding sites, the simultaneous binding of two sites, at two opposing sides of the heme, provides a mechanism to open the heme crevice to substrates. This results in “productive binding” in which cyt-c then sequesters CL, inducing curvature in the membrane. Membrane perturbation along with lipid peroxidation, due to interactions of heme/CL acyl chains, initiates the next step in the apoptotic pathway of making the membrane leaky. The third CL binding site while allowing interaction with the membrane, does not cluster CL or induce subsequent events, making this interaction “unproductive”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1068
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Apoptosis
  • Coarse grained simulation
  • Conformational changes
  • Protein-lipid interactions

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