Dynamics of Cholesterol Exchange in the Oxysterol Binding Protein Family

Bertram J. Canagarajah, Gerhard Hummer, William A. Prinz, James H. Hurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The oxysterol-binding protein-related protein (ORP) family is essential to sterol transfer and sterol-dependent signal transduction in eukaryotes. The crystal structure of one ORP family member, yeast Osh4, is known in apo and sterol-bound states. In the bound state, a 29 residue N-terminal lid region covers the opening of the cholesterol-binding tunnel, preventing cholesterol exchange. Equilibrium and steered molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of Osh4 were carried out to characterize the mechanism of cholesterol exchange. While most of the structural core was stable during the simulations, the lid was partly opened in the apo equilibrium MD simulation. Helix α7, which undergoes the largest conformational change in the crystallized bound and apo states, is conformationally coupled to the opening of the lid. The movement of α7 helps create a docking site for donor or acceptor membranes in the open state. In the steered MD simulations of cholesterol dissociation, we observed complete opening of the lid covering the cholesterol-binding tunnel. Cholesterol was found to exit the binding pocket in a step-wise process involving (i) the breaking of water-mediated hydrogen bonds and van der Waals contacts within the binding pocket, (ii) opening of the lid covering the binding pocket, and (iii) breakage of transient cholesterol contacts with the rim of the pocket and hydrophobic residues on the interior face of the lid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-748
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • cholesterol transfer protein
  • lipid transfer protein
  • molecular dynamics simulation
  • protein conformational change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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