The journal of physical chemistry. B

Measurement of solvation responses at multiple sites in a globular protein.

PMID 17592867


Proteins respond to electrostatic perturbations through complex reorganizations of their charged and polar groups, as well as those of the surrounding media. These solvation responses occur both in the protein interior and on its surface, though the exact mechanisms of solvation are not well understood, in part because of limited data on the solvation responses for any given protein. Here, we characterize the solvation kinetics at sites throughout the sequence of a small globular protein, the B1 domain of streptococcal protein G (GB1), using the synthetic fluorescent amino acid Aladan. Aladan was incorporated into seven different GB1 sites, and the time-dependent Stokes shift was measured over the femtosecond to nanosecond time scales by fluorescence upconversion and time-correlated single photon counting. The seven sites range from buried within the protein core to fully solvent-exposed on the protein surface, and are located on different protein secondary structures including beta-sheets, helices, and loops. The dynamics in the protein sites were compared against the free fluorophore in buffer. All protein sites exhibited an initial, ultrafast Stokes shift on the subpicosecond time scale similar to that observed for the free fluorophore, but smaller in magnitude. As the probe is moved from the surface to more buried sites, the dynamics of the solvation response become slower, while no clear correlation between dynamics and secondary structure is observed. We suggest that restricted movements of the surrounding protein residues give rise to the observed long time dynamics and that such movements comprise a large portion of the protein's solvation response. The proper treatment of dynamic Stokes shift data when the time scale for solvation is comparable to the fluorescence lifetime is discussed.

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