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  1. Abstract

    Site-directed spin labeling (SDSL) ESR is a valuable tool to probe protein systems that are not amenable to characterization by x-ray crystallography, NMR or EM. While general principles that govern the shape of SDSL ESR spectra are known, its precise relationship with protein structure and dynamics is still not fully understood. To address this problem, we designed seven variants of GB1 domain bearing R1 spin label and recorded the corresponding MD trajectories (combined length 180 μs). The MD data were subsequently used to calculate time evolution of the relevant spin density matrix and thus predict the ESR spectra. The simulated spectra proved to be in good agreement with the experiment. Further analysis confirmed that the spectral shape primarily reflects the degree of steric confinement of the R1 tag and, for the well-folded protein such as GB1, offers little information on local backbone dynamics. The rotameric preferences of R1 side chain are determined by the type of the secondary structure at the attachment site. The rotameric jumps involving dihedral angles χ1and χ2are sufficiently fast to directly influence the ESR lineshapes. However, the jumps involving multiple dihedral angles tend to occur in (anti)correlated manner, causing smaller-than-expected movements of the R1 proxyl ring. Of interest, ESR spectra of GB1 domain with solvent-exposed spin label can be accurately reproduced by means of Redfield theory. In particular, the asymmetric character of the spectra is attributable to Redfield-type cross-correlations. We envisage that the current MD-based, experimentally validated approach should lead to a more definitive, accurate picture of SDSL ESR experiments.

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  2. Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are a promising group of synthetic analogues of DNA and RNA that offer several distinct advantages over the naturally occurring nucleic acids for applications in biosensing, drug delivery, and nanoelectronics. Because of its structural differences from DNA/RNA, methods to analyze and assess the structure, conformations, and dynamics are needed. In this work, we develop synergistic techniques for the study of the PNA conformation. We use CuQ2, a Cu(II) complex with 8-hydroxyquinoline (HQ), as an alternative base pair and as a spin label in electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) distance methods. We use molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with newly developed force field parameters for the spin labels to interpret the distance constraints determined by EPR. We complement these methods by UV–vis and circular dichroism measurements and assess the efficacy of the Cu(II) label on a PNA duplex whose backbone is based on aminoethylglycine and a duplex with a hydroxymethyl backbone modification. We show that the Cu(II) label functions efficiently within the standard PNA and the hydroxymethyl-modified PNA and that the MD parameters may be used to accurately reproduce our EPR findings. Through the combination of EPR and MD, we gain new insights into the PNA structure and conformations as well as into the mechanism of orientational selectivity in Cu(II) EPR at X-band. These results present for the first time a rigid Cu(II) spin label used for EPR distance measurements in PNA and the accompanying MD force fields for the spin label. Our studies also reveal that the spin labels have a low impact on the structure of the PNA duplexes. The combined MD and EPR approach represents an important new tool for the characterization of the PNA duplex structure and provides valuable information to aid in the rational application of PNA at large. 
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  3. Abstract Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) has become an important tool to probe conformational changes in nucleic acids. An array of EPR labels for nucleic acids are available, but they often come at the cost of long tethers, are dependent on the presence of a particular nucleotide or can be placed only at the termini. Site directed incorporation of Cu2+-chelated to a ligand, 2,2′dipicolylamine (DPA) is potentially an attractive strategy for site-specific, nucleotide independent Cu2+-labelling in DNA. To fully understand the potential of this label, we undertook a systematic and detailed analysis of the Cu2+-DPA motif using EPR and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. We used continuous wave EPR experiments to characterize Cu2+ binding to DPA as well as optimize Cu2+ loading conditions. We performed double electron-electron resonance (DEER) experiments at two frequencies to elucidate orientational selectivity effects. Furthermore, comparison of DEER and MD simulated distance distributions reveal a remarkable agreement in the most probable distances. The results illustrate the efficacy of the Cu2+-DPA in reporting on DNA backbone conformations for sufficiently long base pair separations. This labelling strategy can serve as an important tool for probing conformational changes in DNA upon interaction with other macromolecules. 
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  4. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) based distance measurements have been exploited to measure protein–protein docking, protein–DNA interactions, substrate binding and metal coordination sites. Here, we use EPR to locate a native paramagnetic metal binding site in a protein with less than 2 Å resolution. We employ a rigid Cu 2+ binding motif, the double histidine (dHis) motif, in conjunction with double electron electron resonance (DEER) spectroscopy. Specifically, we utilize a multilateration approach to elucidate the native Cu 2+ binding site in the immunoglobulin binding domain of protein G. Notably, multilateration performed with the dHis motif required only the minimum number of four distance constraints, whereas comparable studies using flexible nitroxide-based spin labels require many more for similar precision. This methodology demonstrates a significant increase in the efficiency of structural determinations via EPR distance measurements using the dHis motif. 
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  5. Metal-binding peptides are versatile building blocks in supramolecular chemistry. We recently reported a class of crystalline materials formed through a combination of coiled-coil peptide self-association and metal coordination. Here, we probe the serendipitously discovered metal binding motif that drives the assembly and apply these insights to exert rational control over structure and morphology in the materials. 
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