Nuclear magnetic relaxation induced by exchange-mediated orientational randomization: Longitudinal relaxation dispersion for spin I = 1.
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The frequency dependence of the longitudinal relaxation rate, known as the magnetic relaxation dispersion (MRD), can provide a frequency-resolved characterization of molecular motions in complex biological and colloidal systems on time scales ranging from 1 ns to 100 μs. The conformational dynamics of immobilized proteins and other biopolymers can thus be probed in vitro or in vivo by exploiting internal water molecules or labile hydrogens that exchange with a dominant bulk water pool. Numerous water (1)H and (2)H MRD studies of such systems have been reported, but the widely different theoretical models currently used to analyze the MRD data have resulted in divergent views of the underlying molecular motions. We have argued that the essential mechanism responsible for the main dispersion is the exchange-mediated orientational randomization (EMOR) of anisotropic nuclear (electric quadrupole or magnetic dipole) couplings when internal water molecules or labile hydrogens escape from orientationally confining macromolecular sites. In the EMOR model, the exchange process is thus not just a means of mixing spin populations but it is also the direct cause of spin relaxation. Although the EMOR theory has been used in several studies to analyze water (2)H MRD data from immobilized biopolymers, the fully developed theory has not been described. Here, we present a comprehensive account of a generalized version of the EMOR theory for spin I = 1 nuclides like (2)H. As compared to a previously described version of the EMOR theory, the present version incorporates three generalizations that are all essential in applications to experimental data: (i) a biaxial (residual) electric field gradient tensor, (ii) direct and indirect effects of internal motions, and (iii) multiple sites with different exchange rates. In addition, we describe and assess different approximations to the exact EMOR theory that are useful in various regimes. In particular, we consider the experimentally important dilute regime, for which approximate analytical results are derived. As shown by the analytical expressions, and confirmed by exact numerical calculations, the dispersion is governed by the pure nuclear quadrupole resonance frequencies in the ultraslow-motion regime, where the relaxation rate also exhibits a much stronger dependence on the electric field gradient asymmetry than in the motional-narrowing regime.