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Keywords:

  • conformational dynamics;
  • fluorescence correlation spectroscopy;
  • protein aggregation;
  • protein unfolding;
  • solvent effects

Abstract

Determining the structure of a protein and its transformation under different conditions is key to understanding its activity. The structural stability and activity of proteins in aqueous–organic solvent mixtures, which is an intriguing topic of research in biochemistry, is dependent on the nature of the protein and the properties of the medium. Herein, the effect of a commonly used cosolvent, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), on the structure and conformational dynamics of bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein is studied by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) measurements on fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled BSA. The FCS study reveals a change of the hydrodynamic radius of BSA from 3.7 nm in the native state to 7.0 nm in the presence of 40 % DMSO, which suggests complete unfolding of the protein under these conditions. Fluorescence self-quenching of FITC has been exploited to understand the conformational dynamics of BSA. The time constant of the conformational dynamics of BSA is found to change from 35 μs in its native state to 50 μs as the protein unfolds with increasing DMSO concentration. The FCS results are corroborated by the near-UV circular dichroism spectra of the protein, which suggest a loss of its tertiary structure with increasing concentration of DMSO. The intrinsic fluorescence of BSA and the fluorescence response of 1-anilinonaphthalene-8-sulfonic acid, used as a probe molecule, provide information that is consistent with the FCS measurements, except that aggregation of BSA is observed in the presence of 40 % DMSO in the ensemble measurements.