The hallmark of the annexin super family of proteins is Ca 2+-dependent binding to phospholipid bilayers, a property that resides in the conserved core domain of these proteins. Despite the structural similarity between the core domains, studies reported herein showed that annexins A1, A2, A5, and B12 could be divided into two groups with distinctively different Ca2+-dependent membrane-binding properties. The division correlates with the ability of the annexins to form Ca2+-dependent membrane-bound trimers. Site-directed spin-labeling and Förster resonance energy transfer experimental approaches confirmed the well-known ability of annexins A5 and B12 to form trimers, but neither method detected self-association of annexin A1 or A2 on bilayers. Studies of chimeras in which the N-terminal and core domains of annexins A2 and A5 were swapped showed that trimer formation was mediated by the core domain. The trimer-forming annexin A5 and B12 group had the following Ca2+-dependent membrane-binding properties: (1) high Ca2+ stoichiometry for membrane binding (∼12 mol of Ca2+/mol of protein); (2) binding to membranes was very exothermic (> -60 kcal/ mol of protein); and (3) binding to bilayers that were in the liquid-crystal phase but not to bilayers in the gel phase. In contrast, the nontrimer-forming annexin A1 and A2 group had the following Ca2+-dependent membrane-binding properties: (1) lower Ca2+ stoichiometry for membrane binding (≤4 mol of Ca2+/mol of protein); (2) binding to membranes was relatively less exothermic (< -33 kcal/ mol of protein); and (3) binding to bilayers that were in either the liquid-crystal phase or gel phase. The biological implications of this subdivision are discussed.
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