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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Apr 2023 - 14 Apr 2023

Basic Science

Pharmacology/Drug Development


2023 Mar 15

Biophys Chem



Orexin A, an amphipathic α-helical neuropeptide involved in pleiotropic functions in the nervous and immune systems: Synthetic approach and biophysical studies of the membrane-bound state.


Ball HL, Said H, Chapman K, Fu R, Xiong Y, Burk JA, Rosenbaum D, Veneziano R, Cotten ML


This research reports on the membrane interactions of orexin A (OXA), an α-helical and amphipathic neuropeptide that contains 33 residues and two disulfide bonds in the N-terminal region. OXA, which activates the orexins 1 and 2 receptors in neural and immune cell membranes, has essential pleiotropic physiological effects, including at the levels of arousal, sleep/wakefulness, energy balance, neuroprotection, lipid signaling, the inflammatory response, and pain. As a result, the orexin system has become a prominent target to treat diseases such as sleep disorders, drug addiction, and inflammation. While the high-resolution structure of OXA has been investigated in water and bound to micelles, there is a lack of information about its conformation bound to phospholipid membranes and its receptors. NMR is a powerful method to investigate peptide structures in a membrane environment. To facilitate the NMR structural studies of OXA exposed to membranes, we present a novel synthetic scheme, leading to the production of isotopically-labeled material at high purity. A receptor activation assay shows that the N-labeled peptide is biologically active. Biophysical studies are performed using surface plasmon resonance, circular dichroism, and NMR to investigate the interactions of OXA with phospholipid bilayers. The results demonstrate a strong interaction between the peptide and phospholipids, an increase in α-helical content upon membrane binding, and an in-plane orientation of the C-terminal region critical to function. This new knowledge about structure-activity relationships in OXA could inspire the design of novel therapeutics that leverage the anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective functions of OXA, and therefore could help address neuroinflammation, a major issue associated with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.