Binding of natural bile acids to human serum albumin (HSA) is an important step in enterohepatic circulation and provides a measure of liver function. In this article, we report on the use of four dansyl (Dns) derivatives of cholic acid (ChA) to demonstrate a regiodifferentiation in their relative affinity for the two binding sites of HSA. Using both steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence, formation of Dns-ChA@HSA complexes was confirmed; the corresponding binding constants were determined, and their distribution between bulk solution and HSA microenvironment was estimated. By means of energy transfer from Trp to the Dns moiety, donor-acceptor distances were estimated (21-25 Å) and found to be compatible with both site 1 and site 2 occupancies. Nevertheless, titration using warfarin and ibuprofen as specific displacement probes clearly indicated that 3α- and 3β-Dns-ChA bind to HSA at site 2, whereas their C-7 regioisomers bind to HSA at site 1. Furthermore, the C-3-labeled compounds are displaced by lithocholic acid, whereas they are insensitive to ChA, confirming the assumption that the former binds to HSA at site 2. Thus, Dns labeling provides a useful tool to modulate the relative affinity of ChA to the major binding sites of HSA and, in combination with other fluorescent ChA analogs, to mimic the binding behavior of natural bile acids.
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