Endophilin is a key protein involved in clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Previous computational and experimental work suggested that the N-terminal helix is embedded into the membrane to induce curvature; however, the role of the SH3 domain remains controversial. To address this issue, we performed computer simulations of the endophilin dimer in solution to understand the interaction between the N-BAR and SH3 domains and its effect on biological function. We predict that the helix binds to the SH3 domain through hydrophobic and salt-bridge interactions. This protects the hydrophobic residues on both domains and keeps the SH3 domain near the end of the N-BAR domain, in agreement with previous experimental results. The complex has a binding strength similar to a few hydrogen bonds (13.0 ± 0.6 kcal/mol), and the SH3 domain stabilizes the structure of the N-terminal helix in solution. Electrostatic calculations show a large region of strongly positive electrostatic potential near the N-terminal that can orient the helix toward the membrane and likely embed the helix into the membrane surface. This predicted mechanism suggests that endophilin can select for both curvature and electrostatic potential when interacting with membranes, highlighting the importance of the SH3 domain in regulating the function of endophilin.
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