Saposin B is a small, nonenzymatic glycosphingolipid activator protein required for the breakdown of cerebroside sulfates (sulfatides) within the lysosome. The protein can extract target lipids from membranes, forming soluble protein-lipid complexes that are recognized by arylsulfatase A. The crystal structure of human saposin B reveals an unusual shell-like dimer consisting of a monolayer of alpha-helices enclosing a large hydrophobic cavity. Although the secondary structure of saposin B is similar to that of the known monomeric members of the saposin-like superfamily, the helices are repacked into a different tertiary arrangement to form the homodimer. A comparison of the two forms of the saposin B dimer suggests that extraction of target lipids from membranes involves a conformational change that facilitates access to the inner cavity.
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