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J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Dec 21;133(50):20237-44. doi: 10.1021/ja206197h. Epub 2011 Nov 21.

Hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry of bacteriorhodopsin reveals light-induced changes in the structural dynamics of a biomolecular machine.

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Department of Chemistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7.


Many proteins act as molecular machines that are fuelled by a nonthermal energy source. Examples include transmembrane pumps and stator-rotor complexes. These systems undergo cyclic motions (CMs) that are being driven along a well-defined conformational trajectory. Superimposed on these CMs are thermal fluctuations (TFs) that are coupled to stochastic motions of the solvent. Here we explore whether the TFs of a molecular machine are affected by the occurrence of CMs. Bacteriorhodopsin (BR) is a light-driven proton pump that serves as a model system in this study. The function of BR is based on a photocycle that involves trans/cis isomerization of a retinal chromophore, as well as motions of transmembrane helices. Hydrogen/deuterium exchange (HDX) mass spectrometry was used to monitor the TFs of BR, focusing on the monomeric form of the protein. Comparative HDX studies were conducted under illumination and in the dark. The HDX kinetics of BR are dramatically accelerated in the presence of light. The isotope exchange rates and the number of backbone amides involved in EX2 opening transitions increase roughly 2-fold upon illumination. In contrast, light/dark control experiments on retinal-free protein produced no discernible differences. It can be concluded that the extent of TFs in BR strongly depends on photon-driven CMs. The light-induced differences in HDX behavior are ascribed to protein destabilization. Specifically, the thermodynamic stability of the dark-adapted protein is estimated to be 5.5 kJ mol(-1) under the conditions of our work. This value represents the free energy difference between the folded state F and a significantly unfolded conformer U. Illumination reduces the stability of F by 2.2 kJ mol(-1). Mechanical agitation caused by isomerization of the chromophore is transferred to the surrounding protein scaffold, and subsequently, the energy dissipates into the solvent. Light-induced retinal motions therefore act analogously to an internal heat source that promotes the occurrence of TFs. Overall, our data highlight the potential of HDX methods for probing the structural dynamics of molecular machines under "engine on" and "engine off" conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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