Conformational Ensembles of Calmodulin Revealed by Nonperturbing Site-Specific Vibrational Probe Groups

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Seven native residues on the regulatory protein calmodulin, including three key methionine residues, were replaced (one by one) by the vibrational probe amino acid cyanylated cysteine, which has a unique CN stretching vibration that reports on its local environment. Almost no perturbation was caused by this probe at any of the seven sites, as reported by CD spectra of calcium-bound and apo calmodulin and binding thermodynamics for the formation of a complex between calmodulin and a canonical target peptide from skeletal muscle myosin light chain kinase measured by isothermal titration. The surprising lack of perturbation suggests that this probe group could be applied directly in many protein-protein binding interfaces. The infrared absorption bands for the probe groups reported many dramatic changes in the probes' local environments as CaM went from apo- to calcium-saturated to target peptide-bound conditions, including large frequency shifts and a variety of line shapes from narrow (interpreted as a rigid and invariant local environment) to symmetric to broad and asymmetric (likely from multiple coexisting and dynamically exchanging structures). The fast intrinsic time scale of infrared spectroscopy means that the line shapes report directly on site-specific details of calmodulin's variable structural distribution. Though quantitative interpretation of the probe line shapes depends on a direct connection between simulated ensembles and experimental data that does not yet exist, formation of such a connection to data such as that reported here would provide a new way to evaluate conformational ensembles from data that directly contains the structural distribution. The calmodulin probe sites developed here will also be useful in evaluating the binding mode of calmodulin with many uncharacterized regulatory targets.


  • Kristen L. Kelly
  • Shannon R. Dalton
  • Rebecca B. Wai
  • Kanika Ramchandani
  • Rosalind J. Xu
  • Sara Linse
  • Casey H. Londergan
External organisations
  • Haverford College
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2947-2955
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 22
Publication categoryResearch