KCNE1 (minK), found in the human heart and cochlea, is a transmembrane protein that modulates the voltage-gated potassium KCNQ1 channel. While KCNE1 has previously been the subject of extensive structural studies in lyso-phospholipid detergent micelles, key observations have yet to be confirmed and refined in lipid bilayers. In this study, a reliable method for reconstituting KCNE1 into lipid bilayer vesicles composed of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and 1-palmitoyl-2- oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho(1′-rac-glycerol) (sodium salt) (POPG) was developed. Microinjection of the proteoliposomes into Xenopus oocytes expressing the human KCNQ1 (K V7.1) voltage-gated potassium channel led to nativelike modulation of the channel. Circular dichroism spectroscopy demonstrated that the percent helicity of KCNE1 is significantly higher for the protein reconstituted in lipid vesicles than for the previously described structure in 1.0% 1-myristoyl-2-hydroxy-sn-glycero-3-phospho(1′-rac- glycerol) (sodium salt) (LMPG) micelles. SDSL electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopic techniques were used to probe the local structure and environment of Ser28, Phe54, Phe57, Leu59, and Ser64 of KCNE1 in both POPC/POPG vesicles and LMPG micelles. Spin-labeled KCNE1 cysteine mutants at Phe54, Phe57, Leu59, and Ser64 were found to be located inside POPC/POPG vesicles, whereas Ser28 was found to be located outside the membrane. Ser64 was shown to be water inaccessible in vesicles but found to be water accessible in LMPG micelle solutions. These results suggest that key components of the micelle-derived structure of KCNE1 extend to the structure of this protein in lipid bilayers but also demonstrate the need to refine this structure using data derived from the bilayer-reconstituted protein to more accurately define its native structure. This work establishes the basis for such future studies.
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