Sorting of integral membrane proteins mediated by curvature-dependent protein–lipid bilayer interaction
Cell membrane proteins, both bound and integral, are known to preferentially accumulate at membrane locations with curvatures favorable to their shape. This is mainly due to the curvature dependent interaction between membrane proteins and their lipid environment. Here, we analyze the effects of the protein–lipid bilayer interaction energy due to mismatch between the protein shape and the principal curvatures of the surrounding bilayer. The role of different macroscopic parameters that define the interaction energy term is elucidated in relation to recent experiment in which the lateral distribution of a membrane embedded protein potassium channel KvAP is measured on a giant unilamellar lipid vesicle (reservoir) and a narrow tubular extension – a tether – kept at constant length. The dependence of the sorting ratio, defined as the ratio between the areal density of the protein on the tether and on the vesicle, on the inverse tether radius is influenced by the strength of the interaction, the intrinsic shape of the membrane embedded protein, and its abundance in the reservoir. It is described how the values of these constants can be extracted from experiments. The intrinsic principal curvatures of a protein are related to the tether radius at which the sorting ratio attains its maximum value. The estimate of the principal intrinsic curvature of the protein KvAP, obtained by comparing the experimental and theoretical sorting behavior, is consistent with the available information on its structure.