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Protein Dielectric Constants Determined from NMR Chemical Shift Perturbations

TitleProtein Dielectric Constants Determined from NMR Chemical Shift Perturbations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKukic, P, Farrell, D, McIntosh, LP, Garcia-Moreno, BE, Jensen, KSteen, Toleikis, Z, Teilum, K, Nielsen, JErik
Date PublishedNOV 13

Understanding the connection between protein structure and function requires a quantitative understanding of electrostatic effects. Structure-based electrostatic calculations are essential for this purpose, but their use has been limited by a long-standing discussion on which value to use for the dielectric constants (epsilon(eff) and epsilon(p)) required in Coulombic and Poisson-Boltzmann models. The currently used values for epsilon(eff) and epsilon(p) are essentially empirical parameters calibrated against thermodynamic properties that are indirect measurements of protein electric fields. We determine optimal values for e elf and epsilon(p) by measuring protein electric fields in solution using direct detection of NMR chemical shift perturbations (CSPs). We measured CSPs in 14 proteins to get a broad and general characterization of electric fields. Coulomb's law reproduces the measured CSPs optimally with a protein dielectric constant (epsilon(eff)) from 3 to 13, with an optimal value across all proteins of 6.5. However, when the water-protein interface is treated with finite difference Poisson-Boltzmann calculations, the optimal protein dielectric constant (epsilon(p)) ranged from 2 to 5 with an optimum of 3. It is striking how similar this value is to the dielectric constant of 2-4 measured for protein powders and how different it is from the epsilon(p) of 6-20 used in models based on the Poisson-Boltzmann equation when calculating thermodynamic parameters. Because the value of epsilon(p) = 3 is obtained by analysis of NMR chemical shift perturbations instead of thermodynamic parameters such as pK(a) values, it is likely to describe only the electric field and thus represent a more general, intrinsic, and transferable epsilon(p) common to most folded proteins.