The opioid peptide dynorphin A : Biophysical studies of peptide–receptor and peptide–membrane interactions

Sammanfattning: The work presented in this thesis concerns the opioid peptide dynorphin A (DynA). DynA functions primarily as a neurotransmitter and belongs to the family of typical opioid peptides. These peptides are a part of the opioid system, together with the opioid receptors, a family of GPCR membrane proteins. The opioid system system is involved or implicated in several physiological processes such as analgesia, addiction, depression and other types of neurological disorders. In this thesis, two biologically relevant aspects of DynA have been investigated with biophysical methods. First, interactions between DynA and an opioid receptor, and second, the direct membrane interactions of DynA.The DynA–receptor studies were focused on the selectivity-modulating second extracellular loop (EL2) of the kappa-opioid receptor (KOR). A protein engineering approach was used in which the EL2 was grafted onto a soluble protein scaffold. The results show that DynA binds with low affinity but high specificity to EL2 in the construct protein environment. The strength of the interaction is in the micromolar range, and we argue that this interaction is part of the receptor recognition event.With bicelles as a mimetic, membrane interactions were probed for wild-type DynA and for two DynA peptide variants linked to a neurological disorder. R6W–DynA and L5S–DynA were shown to be very different in terms of bicelle association, penetration and structure induction. In these experiments, as well as in investigations of DynA dynamics in bicelles, the lipid environment was shown to have much larger effects on peptide dynamics than on structure; and both these properties depend on lipid charge.Additionally, in a methodological project, DHPC/DMPC bicelle morphology as a function of total PC concentration was characterised by diffusion NMR in combination with two-way decomposition. The results may contribute to providing guidelines for the appropriate use of bicelles as a membrane mimetic.