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Light-Controlled Protein Dynamics Observed with Neutron Spin Echo Measurements



Shao-Chun Wang, Panteha Mirarefi, Antonio Faraone, Jr. Lee


A photo-responsive surfactant has been used as a means to control protein structure and dynamics with light illumination. This cationic azobenzene surfactant, azoTAB, which undergoes a reversible photoisomerization upon exposure to the appropriate wavelength of light, adopts a relatively hydrophobic, trans structure under visible light illumination and a relatively hydrophilic cis structure under UV light illumination. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and neutron spin echo (NSE) spectroscopy were used to measure the tertiary structure and internal dynamics of lysozyme in the presence of the photosurfactant, respectively. The SANS-based in vitro structures indicate that under visible light the photosurfactant induces partial unfolding that principally occurs away from the active site near the hinge region connecting the α and β domains. Upon UV exposure, however, the protein refolds to a native-like structure. At the same time, enhanced internal dynamics of lysozyme were detected with the surfactant in the trans form through NSE measurements of the Q-dependent effective diffusion coefficient (Deff) of the protein. In contrast, the Deff values of lysozyme in the presence of cis azoTAB largely agree with the rigid body calculation as well as those measured for pure lysozyme, suggesting that the native protein is dormant on the nanosecond time and nanometer length scales. Lysozyme internal motions were modeled by assuming a protein of two (¿ and ¿ domains) or three (α and β domains plus the hinge region) domains connect by either soft linkers or rigid, freely-rotating bonds. Protein dynamics were also tracked with FT-IR through hydrogen/deuterium exchange kinetics, which further demonstrated enhanced protein flexibility induced by the trans form of the surfactant relative to the native protein. Ensemble-averaged intramolecular fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements similarly demonstrated the enhanced dynamics of lysozyme with the trans form of the photosurfactant. Previous results have shown a significant increase of the protein activity in the presence of azoTAB in the trans conformation. Combined, these results provide insight into a unique light-based method of controlling protein structure, dynamics, and function, and strongly support the relevance of large domain motions for the activity of proteins.


Wang, S. , Mirarefi, P. , Faraone, A. and Lee, J. (2011), Light-Controlled Protein Dynamics Observed with Neutron Spin Echo Measurements, Biochemistry, [online], (Accessed June 15, 2024)


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Created August 1, 2011, Updated October 12, 2021