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Protein Sci. 2012 Jul;21(7):996-1005. doi: 10.1002/pro.2081. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Protein dynamics viewed by hydrogen exchange.

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Johnson Research Foundation, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6059, USA.


To examine the relationship between protein structural dynamics and measurable hydrogen exchange (HX) data, the detailed exchange behavior of most of the backbone amide hydrogens of Staphylococcal nuclease was compared with that of their neighbors, with their structural environment, and with other information. Results show that H-bonded hydrogens are protected from exchange, with HX rate effectively zero, even when they are directly adjacent to solvent. The transition to exchange competence requires a dynamic structural excursion that removes H-bond protection and allows exposure to solvent HX catalyst. The detailed data often make clear the nature of the dynamic excursion required. These range from whole molecule unfolding, through smaller cooperative unfolding reactions of secondary structural elements, and down to local fluctuations that involve as little as a single peptide group or side chain or water molecule. The particular motion that dominates the exchange of any hydrogen is the one that allows the fastest HX rate. The motion and the rate it produces are determined by surrounding structure and not by nearness to solvent or the strength of the protecting H-bond itself or its acceptor type (main chain, side chain, structurally bound water). Many of these motions occur over time scales that are appropriate for biochemical function.

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