Cholesterol and membrane phospholipid compositions modulate the leakage capacity of the swaposin domain from a potato aspartic protease (StAPs-PSI).
Potato aspartic proteases (StAPs) and their swaposin domain (StAsp-PSI) are proteins with cytotoxic activity which involves plasma membrane destabilization. The ability of these proteins to produce cell death varies with the cellular type. Therefore, StAPs and StAsp-PSI selective cytotoxicity could be attributed to the different membrane lipid compositions of target cells. In this work we investigate the possible mechanism by which StAPs and StAsp-PSI produce selective membrane destabilization. Results obtained from leakage assays show that StAsp-PSI is a potent inducer of the leakage of LUVs containing anionic phospholipids, especially those containing phosphatidylglycerol. Based in these results, we suggest that the cytotoxic activity of StAsp-PSI on pathogenic microorganisms could be mediated by the attraction between the exposed positive domains of StAsp-PSI and the negatively charged microorganism membrane. On the other hand, our circular dichroism spectroscopic measurements and analysis by size exclusion chromatography and followed by electrophoresis, indicate that hydrophobic environment is necessary to StAsp-PSI oligomerization and both StAsp-PSI disulfide bounds and membrane with negative charged phospholipids are required by StAsp-PSI to produce membrane destabilization and then induce cell death in tumors and microorganism cell targets. Additionally, we demonstrate that the presence of cholesterol into the LUV membranes strongly diminishes the capacity of StAsp-PSI to produce leakage