The liganding of glycolipid transfer protein is controlled by glycolipid acyl structure.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040362
Glycosphingolipids (GSLs) play major roles in cellular growth and development. Mammalian glycolipid transfer proteins (GLTPs) are potential regulators of cell processes mediated by GSLs and display a unique architecture among lipid binding/transfer proteins. The GLTP fold represents a novel membrane targeting/interaction domain among peripheral proteins. Here we report crystal structures of human GLTP bound to GSLs of diverse acyl chain length, unsaturation, and sugar composition. Structural comparisons show a highly conserved anchoring of galactosyl- and lactosyl-amide headgroups by the GLTP recognition center. By contrast, acyl chain chemical structure and occupancy of the hydrophobic tunnel dictate partitioning between sphingosine-in and newly-observed sphingosine-out ligand-binding modes. The structural insights, combined with computed interaction propensity distributions, suggest a concerted sequence of events mediated by GLTP conformational changes during GSL transfer to and/or from membranes, as well as during GSL presentation and/or transfer to other proteins.