Issue No. 7May. 2021

Exploring Nanosecond Motions at Atomic Resolution in Proteins with High-Resolution Relaxometry

This issue we are glad to have Associate Prof. Fabien Ferrage, from Ecole normale superieure, Paris in France, to share his experiences on protein dynamics investigation in high-field relaxometry.

Internal motions in proteins are essential for their functions, but how do proteins move? NMR relaxation is an invaluable method to probe local motions in proteins. NMR relaxation in proteins has been measured and analyzed for several decades. The most popular approach consists in recording nitrogen-15 relaxation rates in an isotopically labeled protein and analyze these rates with the model-free formalism. One obtains order parameters that describe the equilibrium distribution of orientations and an effective timescale for local motions.

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Related Literature

Protein dynamics from nuclear magnetic relaxation
Cyril Charlier, Samuel F. Cousin and Fabien Ferrage , Chem. Soc. Rev. 2016, 45, 2410-2422 .

      Nuclear magnetic resonance is a ubiquitous spectroscopic tool to explore molecules with atomic resolution. Nuclear magnetic relaxation is intimately connected to molecular motions. Many methods and models have been developed to measure and interpret the characteristic rates of nuclear magnetic relaxation in proteins. These approaches shed light on a rich and diverse range of motions covering timescales from picoseconds to seconds. Here, we introduce some of the basic concepts upon which these approaches are built and provide a series of illustrations.

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Nanosecond Time Scale Motions in Proteins Revealed by High-Resolution NMR Relaxometry
Cyril Charlier, Shahid Nawaz Khan, Thorsten Marquardsen, Philippe Pelupessy, Volker Reiss, Dimitris Sakellariou, Geoffrey Bodenhausen, Frank Engelke, and Fabien Ferrage
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013 135, 49, 18665–18672

       Understanding the molecular determinants underlying protein function requires the characterization of both structure and dynamics at atomic resolution. Nuclear relaxation rates allow a precise characterization of protein dynamics at the Larmor frequencies of spins. This usually limits the sampling of motions to a narrow range of frequencies corresponding to high magnetic fields. At lower fields one cannot achieve sufficient sensitivity and resolution in NMR. Here, we use a fast shuttle device where the polarization builds up and the signals are detected at high field, while longitudinal relaxation takes place at low fields 0.5 < B0 < 14.1 T. The sample is propelled over a distance up to 50 cm by a blowgun-like system in about 50 ms. The analysis of nitrogen-15 relaxation in the protein ubiquitin over such a wide range of magnetic fields offers unprecedented insights into molecular dynamics. Some key regions of the protein feature structural fluctuations on nanosecond time scales, which have so far been overlooked in high-field relaxation studies. Nanosecond motions in proteins may have been underestimated by traditional high-field approaches, and slower supra-τc motions that have no effect on relaxation may have been overestimated. High-resolution relaxometry thus opens the way to a quantitative characterization of nanosecond motions in proteins.

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