Hyaluronan (HA) is made at the plasma membrane and secreted into the extracellular medium or matrix by phospolipid-dependent hyaluronan synthase (HAS), which is active as a monomer. Since the mechanism by which HA is translocated across membranes is still unresolved, we assessed the presence of an intraprotein pore within HAS by adding purified Streptococcus equisimilis HAS (SeHAS) to liposomes preloaded with the fluorophore Cascade Blue (CB).
CB translocation (efflux) was not observed with mock-purified material from empty vector control E. coli membranes, but was induced by SeHAS, purified from membranes, in a time- and dose-dependent manner. CB efflux was eliminated or greatly reduced when purified SeHAS was first treated under conditions that inhibit enzyme activity: heating, oxidization or cysteine modification with N-ethylmaleimide. Reduced CB efflux also occurred with SeHAS K48E or K48F mutants, in which alteration of K48 within membrane domain 2 causes decreased activity and HA product size. The above results used liposomes containing bovine cardiolipin (BCL). An earlier study testing many synthetic lipids found that the best activating lipid for SeHAS is tetraoleoyl cardiolipin (TO-CL) and that, in contrast, tetramyristoyl cardiolipin (TM-CL) is an inactivating lipid (Weigel et al, J. Biol. Chem. 281, 36542, 2006). Consistent with the effects of these CL species on SeHAS activity, CB efflux was more than 2-fold greater in liposomes made with TO-CL compared to TM-CL.
The results indicate the presence of an intraprotein pore in HAS and support a model in which HA is translocated to the exterior by HAS itself.