Coaction of Electrostatic and Hydrophobic Interactions: Dynamic Constraints on Disordered TrkA Juxtamembrane Domain

The receptor tyrosine kinase family transmits signals into cell via a single transmembrane helix and a flexible juxtamembrane domain (JMD). Membrane dynamics makes it challenging to study the structural mechanism of receptor activation experimentally. In this study, we employ all-atom molecular dynamics with Highly Mobile Membrane-Mimetic to capture membrane interactions with the JMD of tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA). We find that PIP2 lipids engage in lasting binding to multiple basic residues and compete with salt bridge within the peptide. We discover three residues insertion into the membrane, and perturb it through computationally designed point mutations. Single-molecule experiments indicate the contribution from hydrophobic insertion is comparable to electrostatic binding, and in-cell experiments show that enhanced TrkA-JMD insertion promotes receptor ubiquitination. Our joint work points to a scenario where basic and hydrophobic residues on disordered domains interact with lipid headgroups and tails, respectively, to restrain flexibility and potentially modulate protein function.