The non-bilayer lipid MGDG stabilizes the major light-harvesting complex (LHCII) against unfolding

Dennis Seiwert, Hannes Witt, Andreas Janshoff*, Harald Paulsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the photosynthetic apparatus of plants a high proportion of LHCII protein is needed to integrate 50% non-bilayer lipid MGDG into the lamellar thylakoid membrane, but whether and how the stability of the protein is also affected is not known. Here we use single-molecule force spectroscopy to map the stability of LHCII against mechanical unfolding along the polypeptide chain as a function of oligomerization state and lipid composition. Comparing unfolding forces between monomeric and trimeric LHCII demonstrates that the stability does not increase significantly upon trimerization but can mainly be correlated with specific contact sites between adjacent monomers. In contrast, unfolding of trimeric complexes in membranes composed of different thylakoid lipids reveals that the non-bilayer lipid MGDG substantially increases the mechanical stability of LHCII in many segments of the protein compared to other lipids such as DGDG or POPG. We attribute these findings to steric matching of conically formed MGDG and the hourglass shape of trimeric LHCII, thereby extending the role of non-bilayer lipids to the structural stabilization of membrane proteins in addition to the modulation of their folding, conformation and function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5158
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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