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Protein Sci. 2002 Sep;11(9):2067-79.

Modern analytical ultracentrifugation in protein science: a tutorial review.

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Molecular Interactions Resource, Division of Bioengineering and Physical Science, ORS, OD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Analytical ultracentrifugation (AU) is reemerging as a versatile tool for the study of proteins. Monitoring the sedimentation of macromolecules in the centrifugal field allows their hydrodynamic and thermodynamic characterization in solution, without interaction with any matrix or surface. The combination of new instrumentation and powerful computational software for data analysis has led to major advances in the characterization of proteins and protein complexes. The pace of new advancements makes it difficult for protein scientists to gain sufficient expertise to apply modern AU to their research problems. To address this problem, this review builds from the basic concepts to advanced approaches for the characterization of protein systems, and key computational and internet resources are provided. We will first explore the characterization of proteins by sedimentation velocity (SV). Determination of sedimentation coefficients allows for the modeling of the hydrodynamic shape of proteins and protein complexes. The computational treatment of SV data to resolve sedimenting components has been achieved. Hence, SV can be very useful in the identification of the oligomeric state and the stoichiometry of heterogeneous interactions. The second major part of the review covers sedimentation equilibrium (SE) of proteins, including membrane proteins and glycoproteins. This is the method of choice for molar mass determinations and the study of self-association and heterogeneous interactions, such as protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid, and protein-small molecule binding.

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