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Biochemistry. 1991 Aug 6;30(31):7680-92.

Conformational studies of a peptide corresponding to a region of the C-terminus of ribonuclease A: implications as a potential chain-folding initiation site.

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Baker Laboratory of Chemistry, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-1301.


Conformational properties of the OT-16 peptide, the C-terminal 20 amino acids of RNase A, were examined by nonradiative energy transfer. A modified OT-16 peptide was prepared by solid-phase synthesis with the inclusion of diaminobutyric acid (DABA) at the C-terminus. The OT-16-DABA peptide was labeled with a fluorescent 1,5-dimethylaminonaphthalene sulfonyl (dansyl, DNS) acceptor at the N-terminal amine and a fluorescent naphthoxyacetic acid (NAA) donor at the gamma-amine of the DABA located at the C-terminus of the peptide by using an orthogonal protection scheme. Energy transfer was monitored in DNS-OT-16-DABA-NAA by using both fluorescence intensity (sensitized emission) and lifetime (donor quenching) experiments. The lifetime data indicate that the peptide system is a dynamic, flexible one. A detailed analysis, based on a dynamic model that includes a skewed Gaussian function to model the equilibrium distribution of interprobe distances and a mutual diffusion coefficient between the two probes to model conformational dynamics in the peptide [Beechem & Haas (1989) Biophys. J. 55, 1225.], identified the existence of a partially ordered structure (relatively narrow distribution of interprobe distances) at temperatures greater than or equal to 20 degrees C in the absence of denaturant. The width and the position of the average of the distributions decrease with increasing temperature, in this range; this suggests that the structure is stabilized by hydrophobic interactions. In addition, the peptide undergoes cold denaturation at around 1.5 degrees C as indicated by broadening of the distance distribution. The addition of 6 M guanidine hydrochloride (Gdn-HCl) also broadens the distance distribution significantly, presumably by eliminating the hydrophobic interactions and unfolding the peptide. The results of the analysis of the distance distribution demonstrate that (1) nonradiative energy transfer can be used to study the conformational dynamics of peptides on the nanosecond time scale, (2) a partially ordered structure of OT-16-DABA exists in solution under typical refolding conditions, and (3) structural constraints (presumably hydrophobic interactions) necessary for the formation of a chain-folding initiation site in RNase A are also present in the OT-16-DABA peptide in the absence of denaturant and are disrupted by Gdn-HCl.

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