Journal of pharmaceutical sciences

Resolving the challenge of measuring ligand binding to membrane proteins by combining analytical ultracentrifugation and light scattering photometry.

PMID 21922461


Membrane proteins are attractive therapeutic targets, however the presence of detergents complicates biophysical binding measurements. Difficulties in determining quantitative dissociation constants for problematic membrane proteins were addressed by combining analytical ultracentrifugation and classical light scattering techniques. Validation of the algorithm used to calculate dissociation constants from sedimentation equilibrium experiments was demonstrated by analyzing binding data of the inhibitor Y-27632 to rho-kinase (ROCK). Kd's of 1.3 ± 0.7 and 52 ± 27 µM were calculated for ROCK constructs (S6-R415) and (M71-E379) respectively, consistent with previously published Ki's of 1.4 ± 0.1 and > 30 µM. Extension of the algorithm to membrane proteins required the collection of light scattering data to determine the partial specific volume, ν, for the membrane protein-detergent complex. Vitamin B12 binding to the bacterial protein btuB in octyl β-D-glucopyranoside (β-OG) illustrates the applicability of the method. A ν of 0.781 ml/g was determined for the btuB-β-OG complex. Incorporating this value into the algorithm generated a Kd of 7.0 ± 1.5 µM for the vitamin B12-btuB affinity. A Kd of 9.7 ± 2.7 µM was determined by equilibrium dialysis under similar experimental conditions. Successfully applying AUC to quantifying small-molecule ligand affinities to membrane proteins represents a significant advance to the field.