Nuclear magnetic relaxation induced by exchange-mediated orientational randomization: Longitudinal relaxation dispersion for a dipole-coupled spin-1/2 pair.
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In complex biological or colloidal samples, magnetic relaxation dispersion (MRD) experiments using the field-cycling technique can characterize molecular motions on time scales ranging from nanoseconds to microseconds, provided that a rigorous theory of nuclear spin relaxation is available. In gels, cross-linked proteins, and biological tissues, where an immobilized macromolecular component coexists with a mobile solvent phase, nuclear spins residing in solvent (or cosolvent) species relax predominantly via exchange-mediated orientational randomization (EMOR) of anisotropic nuclear (electric quadrupole or magnetic dipole) couplings. The physical or chemical exchange processes that dominate the MRD typically occur on a time scale of microseconds or longer, where the conventional perturbation theory of spin relaxation breaks down. There is thus a need for a more general relaxation theory. Such a theory, based on the stochastic Liouville equation (SLE) for the EMOR mechanism, is available for a single quadrupolar spin I = 1. Here, we present the corresponding theory for a dipole-coupled spin-1/2 pair. To our knowledge, this is the first treatment of dipolar MRD outside the motional-narrowing regime. Based on an analytical solution of the spatial part of the SLE, we show how the integral longitudinal relaxation rate can be computed efficiently. Both like and unlike spins, with selective or non-selective excitation, are treated. For the experimentally important dilute regime, where only a small fraction of the spin pairs are immobilized, we obtain simple analytical expressions for the auto-relaxation and cross-relaxation rates which generalize the well-known Solomon equations. These generalized results will be useful in biophysical studies, e.g., of intermittent protein dynamics. In addition, they represent a first step towards a rigorous theory of water (1)H relaxation in biological tissues, which is a prerequisite for unravelling the molecular basis of soft-tissue contrast in clinical magnetic resonance imaging.