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Methods Enzymol. 2011;501:351-77. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385950-1.00016-X.

Determining serpin conformational distributions with single molecule fluorescence.

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  • 1School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.


Conformational plasticity is key to inhibitory serpin function, and this plasticity gives serpins relatively easy access to alternative, dysfunctional conformations. Thus, a given serpin population may contain both functional and dysfunctional proteins. Single molecule fluorescence (SMF), with its ability to interrogate one fluorescently labeled protein at a time, is a powerful method for elucidating conformational distributions and monitoring how these distributions change over time. SMF and related methods have been particularly valuable for characterizing serpin polymerization. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy experiments have revealed a second lag phase during in vitro α(1)-antitrypsin polymerization associated with the formation of smaller oligomers that then condense to form longer polymers [Purkayastha, P., Klemke, J. W., Lavender, S., Oyola, R., Cooperman, B. S., and Gai, F. (2005). Alpha 1-antitrypsin polymerization: A fluorescence correlation spectroscopic study. Biochemistry44, 2642-2649.]. SMF studies of in vitro neuroserpin polymerization have confirmed that a monomeric intermediate is required for polymer formation while providing a test of proposed polymerization mechanisms [Chiou, A., Hägglöf, P., Orte, A., Chen, A. Y., Dunne, P. D., Belorgey, D., Karlsson-Li, S., Lomas, D., and Klenerman, D. (2009). Probing neuroserpin polymerization and interaction with amyloid-beta peptides using single molecule fluorescence. Biophys. J.97, 2306-2315.]. SMF has also been used to monitor protease-serpin interactions. Single pair Förster resonance energy transfer studies of covalent protease-serpin complexes suggest that the extent of protease structural disruption in the complex is protease dependent [Liu, L., Mushero, N., Hedstrom, L., and Gershenson, A. (2006). Conformational distributions of protease-serpin complexes: A partially translocated complex. Biochemistry45, 10865-10872.]. SMF techniques are still evolving and the combination of SMF with encapsulation methods has the potential to provide more detailed information on the conformational changes associated with serpin polymerization, protease-serpin complex formation, and serpin folding.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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