Applications of time-resolved resonance energy transfer measurements in studies of the molecular crowding effect

Varda Ittah, Edith Kahana, Dan Amir, Elisha Haas

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8 Scopus citations


The native structures of many globular proteins are only weakly stabilized and form in solution ensembles of multiple conformers. The energy differences between the conformers are assumed to be small. This is the case of flexible multidomain proteins where domain motions were observed. High concentrations of inert macrosolute, which create a crowded or confined environment, can cause shifts of the distribution of the conformers of such proteins towards the more compact structures. This effect may also promote compact structures in partially folded proteins. Time-resolved dynamic non-radiative excitation energy transfer (tr-RET) is suitable for detection of either subtle or major changes in distributions of intramolecular distances in protein molecules in solutions. Two experiments were performed which demonstrated the applicability of tr-RET for detection of the effect of macrosolutes on the conformational ensembles of flexible states of protein molecules. The distribution of distances between residues 203 and 169 in the CORE domain of E. coli adenylate kinase (AK) in the denatured state was determined in the presence of high concentrations of dextran 40. A significant shift of the mean of the distribution was observed without reduction of its width. This was interpreted as a shift to compact structure without change of the degree of disorder of the chain. In a second experiment the distribution of the distance between residues 55 and 169 in AK, which spans the cleft between the CORE and the AMPbind domains, was monitored. No clear effect of high concentrations of dextran 40 was found. These experiments show the strength of the application of tr-RET in investigation of changes in the sub-states of flexible conformations of globular protein. Networks of pairs of labeled sites can be prepared and tr-RET experiments can be performed in order to search for the segments of the protein molecules, which respond to the presence of inert macromolecules in their environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-455
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Molecular Recognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Adenylate kinase
  • Crowding
  • Protein folding
  • Resonance energy transfer
  • Site-specific labeling
  • Time-resolved fluorescence


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