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Protein Sci. 2012 Jul;21(7):987-95. doi: 10.1002/pro.2082. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Protein hydrogen exchange: testing current models.

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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 investigate the determinants of protein hydrogen exchange (HX), HX rates of most of the backbone amide hydrogens of Staphylococcal nuclease were measured by NMR methods. A modified analysis was used to improve accuracy for the faster hydrogens. HX rates of both near surface and well buried hydrogens are spread over more than 7 orders of magnitude. These results were compared with previous hypotheses for HX rate determination. Contrary to a common assumption, proximity to the surface of the native protein does not usually produce fast exchange. The slow HX rates for unprotected surface hydrogens are not well explained by local electrostatic field. The ability of buried hydrogens to exchange is not explained by a solvent penetration mechanism. The exchange rates of structurally protected hydrogens are not well predicted by algorithms that depend only on local interactions or only on transient unfolding reactions. These observations identify some of the present difficulties of HX rate prediction and suggest the need for returning to a detailed hydrogen by hydrogen analysis to examine the bases of structure-rate relationships, as described in the companion paper (Skinner et al., Protein Sci 2012;21:996-1005).

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