Internal cavities in proteins produce conformational fluctuations and enable the binding of small ligands. Here, we report a NMR analysis of O2-binding sites by O2-induced paramagnetic relaxation enhancements (PREs) on amide groups of proteins in solution. Outer surface protein A contains a nonglobular single-layer β-sheet that connects the N- and C-terminal globular domains. Several cavities have been observed in both domains of the crystallized protein structure. The receptor-binding sites are occluded and line the largest cavity of the C-terminal domain. We observed significant O2-induced PREs for amide protons located around the largest cavity and at the central β-sheet. We suggested three potential O2-accessible sites in the protein based on the 1/r6 distance dependence of the PRE. Two sites were in or close to the largest cavity and the third site was in the surface crevice of the central β-sheet. These results provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence of ligand binding to the surface crevice and cavity of the protein in solution. Because O2 generally binds more specifically to hydrophobic rather than hydrophilic cavities within a protein, the results also indicated that the receptor-binding sites lining the largest cavity were in the hydrophobic environment in the ground-state conformation. Molecular dynamics simulations permitted the visualization of the rotational and translational motions of O2 within the largest cavity, egress of O2 from the cavity, and ingress of O2 in the surface crevice of the β-sheet. These molecular dynamics simulation results qualitatively explained the O2-induced changes in NMR observations. Exploring cavities that are sufficiently dynamic to enable access by small molecules can be a useful strategy for the design of stable proteins and their ligands.
Kawamura, T., Wakamoto, T., Kitazawa, S., Sakuraba, S., Kameda, T., & Kitahara, R. (2017). Analysis of O2-binding Sites in Proteins Using Gas-Pressure NMR Spectroscopy: Outer Surface Protein A. Biophysical Journal, 112(9), 1820–1828. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2017.03.029