Water proton spin-lattice relaxation is studied in dilute solutions of bovine serum albumin as a function of magnetic field strength, oxygen concentration, and solvent deuteration. In contrast to previous studies conducted at high protein concentrations, the observed relaxation dispersion is accurately Lorentzian with an effective correlation time of 41 ± 3 ns when measured at low proton and low protein concentrations to minimize protein aggregation. Elimination of oxygen flattens the relaxation dispersion profile above the rotational inflection frequency, nearly eliminating the high field tail previously attributed to a distribution of exchange times for either whole water molecules or individual protons at the protein-water interface. The small high-field dispersion that remains is attributed to motion of the bound water molecules on the protein or to internal protein motions on a time scale of order one ns. Measurements as a function of isotope composition permit separation of intramolecular and intermolecular relaxation contributions. The magnitude of the intramolecular proton-proton relaxation rate constant is interpreted in terms of 25 ± 4 water molecules that are bound rigidly to the protein for a time long compared with the rotational correlation time of 42 ns. This number of bound water molecules neglects the possibility of local motions of the water in the binding site; inclusion of these effects may increase the number of bound water molecules by 50%.
Kiihne, S., & Bryant, R. G. (2000). Protein-bound water molecule counting by resolution of 1H spin-lattice relaxation mechanisms. Biophysical Journal, 78(4), 2163–2169. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(00)76763-4