The Atlastin C-terminal tail is an amphipathic helix that perturbs the bilayer structure during endoplasmic reticulum homotypic fusion

Joseph E Faust, Tanvi Desai, Avani Verma, Idil Ulengin, Tzu-Lin Sun, Tyler J Moss, Miguel A Betancourt-Solis, Huey W Huang, Tina Lee, James A McNew
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2015 February 20, 290 (8): 4772-83
Fusion of tubular membranes is required to form three-way junctions found in reticular subdomains of the endoplasmic reticulum. The large GTPase Atlastin has recently been shown to drive endoplasmic reticulum membrane fusion and three-way junction formation. The mechanism of Atlastin-mediated membrane fusion is distinct from SNARE-mediated membrane fusion, and many details remain unclear. In particular, the role of the amphipathic C-terminal tail of Atlastin is still unknown. We found that a peptide corresponding to the Atlastin C-terminal tail binds to membranes as a parallel α helix, induces bilayer thinning, and increases acyl chain disorder. The function of the C-terminal tail is conserved in human Atlastin. Mutations in the C-terminal tail decrease fusion activity in vitro, but not GTPase activity, and impair Atlastin function in vivo. In the context of unstable lipid bilayers, the requirement for the C-terminal tail is abrogated. These data suggest that the C-terminal tail of Atlastin locally destabilizes bilayers to facilitate membrane fusion.

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