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J Phys Chem A. 2006 Apr 20;110(15):5191-203.

Quantitative single-molecule conformational distributions: a case study with poly-(L-proline).

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Department of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley, and Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Precise measurement of the potential of mean force is necessary for a fundamental understanding of the dynamics and chemical reactivity of a biological macromolecule. The unique advantage provided by the recently developed constant-information approach to analyzing time-dependent single-molecule fluorescence measurements was used with maximum entropy deconvolution to create a procedure for the accurate determination of molecular conformational distributions, and analytical expressions for the errors in these distributions were derived. This new method was applied to a derivatized poly(L-proline) series, P(n)CG3K(biotin) (n = 8, 12, 15, 18, and 24), using a modular, server-based single-molecule spectrometer that is capable of registering photon arrival times with a continuous-wave excitation source. To account for potential influence from the microscopic environment, factors that were calibrated and corrected molecule by molecule include background, cross-talk, and detection efficiency. For each single poly(L-proline) molecule, sharply peaked Förster type resonance energy transfer (FRET) efficiency and distance distributions were recovered, indicating a static end-to-end distance on the time scale of measurement. The experimental distances were compared with models of varying rigidity. The results suggest that the 23 angstroms persistence length wormlike chain model derived from experiments with high molecular weight poly(L-proline) is applicable to short chains as well.

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