Acta Physico-Chimica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (4): 1905019.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB201905019

Special Issue: Solid-State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Determination of Three-Dimensional Structures of Protein Assemblies via Solid-State NMR

Jing Deng1,2,Tao Ma1,2,Ziwei Chang1,Weijing Zhao1,Jun Yang1,*()   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance and Atomic and Molecular Physics, National Center for Magnetic Resonance in Wuhan, Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430071, P. R. China
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, P. R. China
  • Received:2019-05-02 Accepted:2019-06-17 Published:2020-03-12
  • Contact: Jun Yang
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21425523);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31770798);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31600613);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21603269)


Biological assemblies with specific function or pathogenicity are widespread within organisms; however, their insolubility, amorphous properties, and large size are the major obstacles for structure determination via solution NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. In contrast, solid-state NMR (ssNMR) spectroscopy is not limited by the solubility or crystallinity of the sample and is a potent method to determine the structure of protein assemblies at atomic resolution. High magnetic field, fast magic-angle spinning (MAS), isotope labeling schemes, and improved methodology in ssNMR have enabled resonance assignment and restraints in structure determination among protein assemblies. This review first discusses methods of obtaining structural restraints by ssNMR. Optimization of sample preparation is an effective approach to increase homogeneity in the conformation, thus also improving the resolution of ssNMR spectra. Furthermore, the resolution of 13C spectra can be further improved by using 13C sparse labeling strategies with selective labeling of carbon sources during protein expression. Structure characterization by ssNMR is based on structural restraints via multidimensional experiments correlating resonance between 13C and 15N. Protein secondary structure can be ascertained through chemical shifts involving 13Cα, 13Cβ, 13C', and 15N. The backbone torsion angle can be predicted using TALOS+ based on these chemical shifts. Site-specific structural restraints are accessible from 2D experiments such as 13C-13C, e.g., proton-driven spin diffusion (PDSD), dipolar-assisted rotational resonance (DARR), proton-assisted recoupling (PAR) and 13C-15N, e.g., transferred-echo double-resonance (TEDOR), rotational-echo double-resonance (REDOR). An additional issue is to distinguish inter-molecular and intra-molecular restraints. Preparations of mixed labeled samples (e.g., 50% 13C uniformly labeled subunits and 50% uniformly 15N labeled subunits) have yielded abundant structural restraints from ssNMR data, facilitating high-resolution structural analysis. Further, hybrid approaches based on ssNMR are discussed. Electron microscopy (EM) is a suitable method to investigate structural features including the diameter of the protein assemblies, which is "invisible" through ssNMR analysis. Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) can help determine the mass-per-length parameters (MPL) of unbranched fibrils, thus confirming the number of subunits in a layer of fibrils. Cryo-EM is a powerful technique to describe the molecular envelope of protein assemblies. Cryo-EM potentially yields the density map and long-range symmetry parameters, while ssNMR provides atomic-level structural details; hence, Cryo-EM and ssNMR are highly complementary methods. X-ray diffraction can help determine the distance (4.5–4.7 Å, 1 Å = 0.1 nm) along the fibril axis between adjacent polypeptide chains in β-strand conformation, generally referred to as the "cross-β" structure. Rosetta has simulated the protein structure in accordance with structural data obtained from protein data bank (PDB) with the same peptide sequence. On combining ssNMR with those methods, more abundant structural information may be obtained, thus shortening the structural calculation cycle. Finally, a detailed description of the ssNMR structural data on amyloid-β (Aβ) fibrils and T3SS needles are provided as examples. Various structural characteristics of Aβ40/Aβ42 were reported by several groups, including the trimeric or dimeric conformations, parallel or antiparallel, in-register or out-of-register arrangements of the β-strands, demonstrating the structural polymorphism of Aβ40/Aβ42. Atomic-resolution structures of T3SS needles were analyzed on the basis of high-resolution spectra, using 13C sparse-labeled and ssNMR-Cryo-EM-Rosetta hybrid approaches, indicating that hybrid approaches based on ssNMR are a powerful tool to determine the high-resolution structure of protein assemblies.

Key words: Solid-state NMR, Protein assembly, High resolution structure, Type Ⅲ secretion system needle, β-amyloid fibril


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