The transmembrane domain of Neu in a lipid bilayer: molecular dynamics simulations
A mechanism by which ligand binding to the extracellular domain of a growth factor receptor causes activation of its cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase domain is that binding promotes receptor dimerization. Recently we proposed a model in which dimerization of the transmembrane alpha-helices in one member of this family, rat neu, is mediated by the presence of three specific residues. This paper shows that a similar sequence motif is observed in 18 of the 20 transmembrane alpha-helices of the tyrosine kinase family of growth factor receptors. The motif encompasses a five residue segment in which position 0 (P0) requires a small side chain (Gly, Ala, Ser, Thr or Pro), P3 an aliphatic side chain (Ala, Val, Leu or Ile) and P4 only the smallest side chains (Gly or Ala). In addition other features of the transmembrane sequences are reported. It is concluded that the dimerization of transmembrane alpha-helices may be a general mechanism of tyrosine kinase activation in this family of growth factor receptors.