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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 22;102(8):2754-9. Epub 2005 Feb 7.

Polyproline and the "spectroscopic ruler" revisited with single-molecule fluorescence.

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  • 1Laboratory of Chemical Physics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Building 5, Room 104, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


To determine whether Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements can provide quantitative distance information in single-molecule fluorescence experiments on polypeptides, we measured FRET efficiency distributions for donor and acceptor dyes attached to the ends of freely diffusing polyproline molecules of various lengths. The observed mean FRET efficiencies agree with those determined from ensemble lifetime measurements but differ considerably from the values expected from Forster theory, with polyproline treated as a rigid rod. At donor-acceptor distances much less than the Forster radius R(0), the observed efficiencies are lower than predicted, whereas at distances comparable to and greater than R(0), they are much higher. Two possible contributions to the former are incomplete orientational averaging during the donor lifetime and, because of the large size of the dyes, breakdown of the point-dipole approximation assumed in Forster theory. End-to-end distance distributions and correlation times obtained from Langevin molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the differences for the longer polyproline peptides can be explained by chain bending, which considerably shortens the donor-acceptor distances.

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