Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 70, Issue 12, pp 2083–2098 | Cite as

Effects of MACPF/CDC proteins on lipid membranes

  • Robert J. C. GilbertEmail author
  • Miha Mikelj
  • Mauro Dalla Serra
  • Christopher J. Froelich
  • Gregor AnderluhEmail author


Recent work on the MACPF/CDC superfamily of pore-forming proteins has focused on the structural analysis of monomers and pore-forming oligomeric complexes. We set the family of proteins in context and highlight aspects of their function which the direct and exclusive equation of oligomers with pores fails to explain. Starting with a description of the distribution of MACPF/CDC proteins across the domains of life, we proceed to show how their evolutionary relationships can be understood on the basis of their structural homology and re-evaluate models for pore formation by perforin, in particular. We furthermore highlight data showing the role of incomplete oligomeric rings (arcs) in pore formation and how this can explain small pores generated by oligomers of proteins belonging to the family. We set this in the context of cell biological and biophysical data on the proteins’ function and discuss how this helps in the development of an understanding of how they act in processes such as apicomplexan parasites gliding through cells and exiting from cells.


MACPF domain Cholesterol-dependent cytolysins Pore Membrane interactions Membrane damage 





Bacillus thetaiotaomicron MACPF protein


Cholesterol-dependent cytolysins


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes


Electron microscopy


Granzyme B






Membrane attack complex/perforin


Membrane attack complex








Perforin-like proteins


Photorhabdus luminescens MACPF protein


Plasmodium perforin-like proteins


Parasitophorous vacuole




Trans-membrane hairpin (present in the soluble forms of CDC/MACPFs as α-helices)



We would like to thank Tilen Praper for the work performed with planar lipid bilayers and Robert Liddington and Alexander Aleshin for discussion and for providing the model of the complement membrane attack complex. R.J.C.G. is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and the Oxford Division of Structural Biology is part of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Wellcome Trust Core Award Grant Number 090532/Z/09/Z.M.D.S. would like to thank the Nanosmart project from the Provincia Autonoma di Trento for support. G. A. would like to thank the Slovenian Research Agency for support.

Supplementary material

18_2012_1153_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. C. Gilbert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miha Mikelj
    • 2
  • Mauro Dalla Serra
    • 3
  • Christopher J. Froelich
    • 4
  • Gregor Anderluh
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Structural Biology, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human GeneticsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.National Research Council, Institute of Biophysics and Bruno Kessler FoundationTrentoItaly
  4. 4.Department of MedicineNorthShore University HealthSystem Research InstituteEvanstonUSA
  5. 5.National Institute of ChemistryLjubljanaSlovenia

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