Comparison of protein structures in solution using local conformations derived from nmr data: Application to cytochrome c

Leela Kar, Simon A. Sherman, Michael E. Johnson

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16 Scopus citations


Structural comparisons of proteins in solution are often required to examine structure- functional relationships, study structural effects of mutations or distinguish between various forms of the same molecule under different conditions. A nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) based probabilistic strategy is presented and used to study the structural differences between the two redox states of cytochrome c in solution. A probabilistic approach is employed to calculate the main chain conformations of horse ferro- and ferricytochrome c in solution, based on the published sequential d connectivity data. Conformational differences between the two oxidation states of horse cytochrome c in solution are found to be statistically significant. The largest changes in conformation are at residues Lys27, Thr28, Leu32, Gln42, Thr47, Tyr48, Thr49, Glu69, Lys72, Met80, Phe82, Ile85 and Lys86, all of which are close to the heme (within 14 À of the heme iron in the high resolution Xray structure of tuna cytochrome c). We suggest that these conformational changes may modulate local dipole moments and hence influence the interactions of cytochrome c with its physiological redox partners during the electron transfer process. The oxidation state dependent conformational differences are found to be much greater in solution than in the crystalline state, and the solution and crystal structures differ significantly in regions close to the heme. These results suggest that the highly charged nature of cytochrome c makes this protein particularly sensitive to the ionic strength of its environment and leads to differences between crystal and solution structures in the same oxidation state. In such cases, crystal structures must be used with caution for modeling molecular interactions in vivo. More generally, this analysis indicates that the determination of accurate local conformations based on nmr data can provide useful information about structure-functional aspects of proteins in solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-558
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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