Protein surface hydration mapped by site-specific mutations

by Qiu, W. H.; Kao, Y. T.; Zhang, L. Y.; Yang, Y.; Wang, L. J.; Stites, W. E.; Zhong, D. P.; Zewail, A. H.

Water motion at protein surfaces is fundamental to protein structure, stability, dynamics, and function. By using intrinsic tryptophans as local optical probes, and with femtosecond resolution, it is possible to probe surface-water motions in the hydration layer. Here, we report our studies of local hydration dynamics at the surface of the enzyme Staphylococcus nuclease using site-specific mutations. From these studies of the WT and four related mutants, which change local charge distribution and structure, we are able to ascertain the contribution to solvation by protein side chains as relatively insignificant. We determined the time scales of hydration to be 3-5 ps and 100-150 ps. The former is the result of local librational/rotational motions of water near the surface; the latter is a direct measure of surface hydration assisted by fluctuations of the protein. Experimentally, these hydration dynamics of the WT and the four mutants are also consistent with results of the total dynamic Stokes shifts and fluorescence emission maxima and are correlated with their local charge distribution and structure. We discuss the role of protein fluctuation on the time scale of labile hydration and suggest reexamination of recent molecular dynamics simulations.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
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