Cholesterol modulates the exposure and orientation of pulmonary surfactant protein SP-C in model surfactant membranes

Cholesterol is the major neutral lipid in lung surfactant, accounting for up to 8-10% of surfactant mass, while surfactant protein SP-C (~ 4.2 kDa) accounts for no more than 1-1.5% of total surfactant weight but plays critical roles in formation and stabilization of pulmonary surfactant films. It has been reported that surfactant protein SP-C interacts with cholesterol in lipid/protein interfacial films and this interaction could have a potential role on modulating surfactant function. In the present study, we have analyzed the effect of cholesterol on the structure, orientation and dynamic properties of SP-C embedded in physiologically relevant model membranes. The presence of cholesterol does not induce substantial changes in the secondary structure of SP-C, as analyzed by Attenuated Reflection Fourier Transformed Infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR). However, the presence of cholesterol modifies the orientation of the transmembrane helix and the dynamic properties of the protein, as demonstrated by hydrogen/deuterium exchange kinetics. The effect of cholesterol on SP-C reconstituted in zwitterionic, entirely fluid, membranes made of POPC (palmitoyloleoylphospatidylcholine) or in anionic membranes with coexistence of ordered and disordered phases, such as those made of dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC):POPC:Palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylglycerol (POPG) (50:25:15) is dual. Cholesterol decreases the exposure of the protein to the aqueous environment and the tilt of its transmembrane helical segment up to a ratio Cholesterol:SP-C of 4.8 and 2.4 (mol/mol) in the two lipid systems tested, respectively, and it increases the exposure and tilt at higher cholesterol proportions. The results presented here suggest the existence of an interaction between SP-C and cholesterol-enriched phases, with consequences on the behavior of the protein, which could be of relevance for cholesterol-dependent structure-function relationships in pulmonary surfactant membranes and films.

Gómez-Gil, L., J. Pérez-Gil, E. Goormaghtigh

Biochimica et Biophysica Acta






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