Electrostatic contributions to residue-specific protonation equilibria and proton binding capacitance for a small protein

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Charge-charge interactions in proteins are important in a host of biological processes. Here we use C-13 NMR chemical shift data for individual aspartate and glutamate side chain carboxylate groups to accurately detect site-specific protonation equilibria in a variant of the B1 domain of protein G (PGB1-QDD). Carbon chemical shifts are dominated by changes in the electron distribution within the side chain and therefore excellent reporters of the charge state of individual groups, and the data are of high precision. We demonstrate that it is possible to detect local charge interactions within this small protein domain that stretch and skew the chemical shift titration curves away from "ideal" behavior and introduce a framework for the analysis of such convoluted data to study local charge-charge interactions and electrostatic coupling. It is found that, due to changes in electrostatic potential, the proton binding affinity, K-a, of each carboxyl group changes throughout the titration process and results in a linearly pH dependent pK(a) value. This result could be readily explained by calculations of direct charge-charge interactions based on Coulomb's law. In addition, the slope of pK(a) versus pH was dependent on screening by salt, and this dependence allowed the selective study of charge-charge interactions. For PGB1-QDD, it was established that mainly differences in self-energy, and not direct charge-charge interactions, are responsible for shifted pK(a) values within the protein environment.


Research areas and keywords

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  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13993-14002
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch