Many antibiotic peptides function by binding and inserting into membranes. Understanding this process provides an insight into the fundamentals of both membrane protein folding and antibiotic peptide function. For the first time, in this work, flow-aligned linear dichroism (LD) is used to study the folding of the antibiotic peptide gramicidin. LD provides insight into the combined processes of peptide folding and insertion and has the advantage over other similar techniques of being insensitive to off-membrane aggregation events. By combining LD data with conventional measurements of protein fluorescence and circular dichroism, the mechanism of gramicidin insertion is elucidated. The mechanism consists of five separately assignable steps that include formation of a water-insoluble gramicidin aggregate, dissociation from the aggregate, partitioning of peptide to the membrane surface, oligomerisation on the surface and concerted insertion and folding of the peptide to the double-helical form of gramicidin. Measurement of the rates of each step shows that although changes in the fluorescence signal cease 10 s after the initiation of the process, the insertion of the peptide into the membrane is actually not complete for a further 60 min. This last membrane insertion phase is only apparent by measurement of LD and circular dichroism signal changes. In summary, this study demonstrates the importance of multi-technique approaches, including LD, in studies of membrane protein folding.
- linear dichroism
- membrane protein