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J Struct Biol. 2011 Mar;173(3):515-29. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2010.11.005. Epub 2010 Nov 11.

Structural NMR of protein oligomers using hybrid methods.

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Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Solving structures of native oligomeric protein complexes using traditional high-resolution NMR techniques remains challenging. However, increased utilization of computational platforms, and integration of information from less traditional NMR techniques with data from other complementary biophysical methods, promises to extend the boundary of NMR-applicable targets. This article reviews several of the techniques capable of providing less traditional and complementary structural information. In particular, the use of orientational constraints coming from residual dipolar couplings and residual chemical shift anisotropy offsets are shown to simplify the construction of models for oligomeric complexes, especially in cases of weak homo-dimers. Combining this orientational information with interaction site information supplied by computation, chemical shift perturbation, paramagnetic surface perturbation, cross-saturation and mass spectrometry allows high resolution models of the complexes to be constructed with relative ease. Non-NMR techniques, such as mass spectrometry, EPR and small angle X-ray scattering, are also expected to play increasingly important roles by offering alternative methods of probing the overall shape of the complex. Computational platforms capable of integrating information from multiple sources in the modeling process are also discussed in the article. And finally a new, detailed example on the determination of a chemokine tetramer structure will be used to illustrate how a non-traditional approach to oligomeric structure determination works in practice.

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