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J Magn Reson. 2006 Apr;179(2):199-205. Epub 2005 Dec 28.

Spin relaxation measurements of electrostatic bias in intermolecular exploration.

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  • 1Chemistry Department, Biophysics Program, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4319, USA.


We utilize the paramagnetic contribution to proton spin-lattice relaxation rate constants induced by freely diffusing charged paramagnetic centers to investigate the effect of charge on the intermolecular exploration of a protein by the small molecule. The proton NMR spectrum provided 255 resolved resonances that report how the explorer molecule local concentration varies with position on the surface. The measurements integrate over local dielectric constant variations, and, in principle, provide an experimental characterization of the surface free energy sampling biases introduced by the charge distribution on the protein. The experimental results for ribonuclease A obtained using positive, neutral, and negatively charged small nitroxide radicals are qualitatively similar to those expected from electrostatic calculations. However, while systematic electrostatic trends are apparent, the three different combinations of the data sets do not yield internally consistent values for the electrostatic contribution to the intermolecular free energy. We attribute this failure to the weakness of the electrostatic sampling bias for charged nitroxides in water and local variations in effective translational diffusion constant at the water-protein interface, which enters the nuclear spin relaxation equations for the nitroxide-proton dipolar coupling.

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