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Conformation of T4 lysozyme in solution. Hinge-bending motion and the substrate-induced conformational transition studied by site-directed spin labeling.


Mchaourab HSH S , Oh KJ K J , Fang CJ C J , Hubbell WL W L . Biochemistry. 1997 1 14; 36(2). 307-16


T4 lysozyme and mutants thereof crystallize in different conformations that are related to each other by a bend about a hinge in the molecule. This observation suggests that the wild type protein may undergo a hinge-bending motion in solution to allow substrate access to an otherwise closed active site cleft [Faber, H.R., & Matthews, B.W. (1990) Nature 348, 263-266]. To test this hypothesis, either single or pairs of nitroxide side chains were introduced into the protein to monitor tertiary contact interactions and inter-residue distances, respectively, in solution. A set of constraints for these structural parameters was derived from a reference state, a covalent enzyme-substrate adduct where the enzyme is locked in the closed state. In the absence of substrate, differences in both inter-residue distances and tertiary contact interactions relative to this reference state are consistent with a hinge-bending motion that opens the active site cleft. Quantitative analysis of spin-spin interactions between nitroxide pairs reveals an 8 A relative domain movement upon substrate binding. In addition, it is demonstrated that the I3P mutation, which produces a large hinge-bending angle in the crystal, has no effect on the solution conformation. Thus, the hinge motion is not the result of the mutation but is an integral part of T4 lysozyme catalysis in solution, as suggested recently [Zhang, X.J., Wozniak, J.A., & Matthews, B.W. (1995) J. Mol. Biol. 250, 527-552]. The strategy employed here, based on site-directed spin labeling, should be generally applicable to the study of protein conformation and conformational changes in solution.