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Anatomy and Dynamics of a Supramolecular Membrane Protein Cluster

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Science  24 Aug 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5841, pp. 1072-1076
DOI: 10.1126/science.1141727

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Abstract

Most plasmalemmal proteins organize in submicrometer-sized clusters whose architecture and dynamics are still enigmatic. With syntaxin 1 as an example, we applied a combination of far-field optical nanoscopy, biochemistry, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) analysis, and simulations to show that clustering can be explained by self-organization based on simple physical principles. On average, the syntaxin clusters exhibit a diameter of 50 to 60 nanometers and contain 75 densely crowded syntaxins that dynamically exchange with freely diffusing molecules. Self-association depends on weak homophilic protein-protein interactions. Simulations suggest that clustering immobilizes and conformationally constrains the molecules. Moreover, a balance between self-association and crowding-induced steric repulsions is sufficient to explain both the size and dynamics of syntaxin clusters and likely of many oligomerizing membrane proteins that form supramolecular structures.

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