The basic protein of myelin (called MBP) is an extrinsic protein of the myelin membrane. Its structure and function are still unknown. MBP has been extensively studied in its water-soluble form, but it is also known in a detergent-soluble form, which is purified with endogenous myelin lipids and should correspond to the native form of the protein in the membrane. In order to acquire insight into the structure of MBP, we have carried out circular dichroism (CD) experiments on the protein both in the lipid-free and in the lipid-bound form. Our data clearly show that lipid-free MBP is mainly disordered with only a small amount having α-helix and β-sheet motifs. On the other hand, the lipid-bound form of MBP appears to have a consistent amount of ordered secondary structure. Theoretical predictions, made using different computational methods, substantially confirm the tendency of the protein to assume an ordered secondary structure in accordance with our CD results.
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