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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2014 Mar 7;16(9):4202-9. doi: 10.1039/c3cp54816c.

Diversification of EPR signatures in Site Directed Spin Labeling using a β-phosphorylated nitroxide.

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Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, BIP UMR 7281, 31 Chemin J. Aiguier, 13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France.


Site Directed Spin Labeling (SDSL) combined with EPR spectroscopy is a very powerful approach to investigate structural transitions in proteins in particular flexible or even disordered ones. Conventional spin labels are based on nitroxide derivatives leading to classical 3-line spectra whose spectral shapes are indicative of the environment of the labels and thus constitute good reporters of structural modifications. However, the similarity of these spectral shapes precludes probing two regions of a protein or two partner proteins simultaneously. To overcome the limitation due to the weak diversity of nitroxide label EPR spectral shapes, we designed a new spin label based on a β-phosphorylated nitroxide giving 6-line spectra. This paper describes the synthesis of this new spin label, its grafting at four different positions of a model disordered protein able to undergo an induced α-helical folding and its characterization by EPR spectroscopy. For comparative purposes, a classical nitroxide has been grafted at the same positions of the model protein. The ability of the new label to report on structural transitions was evaluated by analyzing the spectral shape modifications induced either by the presence of a secondary structure stabilizer (trifluoroethanol) or by the presence of a partner protein. Taken together the results demonstrate that the new phosphorylated label gives a very distinguishable signature which is able to report from subtle to larger structural transitions, as efficiently as the classical spin label. As a complementary approach, molecular dynamics (MD) calculations were performed to gain further insights into the binding process between the labeled NTAIL and PXD. MD calculations revealed that the new label does not disturb the interaction between the two partner proteins and reinforced the conclusion on its ability to probe different local environments in a protein. Taken together this study represents an important step forward in the extension of the panoply of SDSL-EPR approaches.

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