Protein hydrogen exchange mechanism: Local fluctuations

Haripada Maity, Woon Ki Lim, Jon N. Rumbley, S. Walter Englander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Experiments were done to study the dynamic structural motions that determine protein hydrogen exchange (HX) behavior. The replacement of a solvent-exposed lysine residue with glycine (Lys8Gly) in a helix of recombinant cytochrome c does not perturb the native structure, but it entropically potentiates main-chain flexibility and thus can promote local distortional motions and large-scale unfolding. The mutation accelerates amide hydrogen exchange of the mutated residue by about 50-fold, neighboring residues in the same helix by less, and residues elsewhere in the protein not at all, except for Leu98, which registers the change in global stability. The pattern of HX changes shows that the coupled structural distortions that dominate exchange can be several residues in extent, but they expose to exchange only one amide NH at a time. This 'local fluctuation' mode of hydrogen exchange may be generally recognized by disparate near-neighbor rates and a low dependence on destabilants (denaturant, temperature, pressure). In contrast, concerted unfolding reactions expose multiple neighboring amide NHs with very similar computed protection factors, and they show marked destabilant sensitivity. In both modes, ionic hydrogen exchange catalysts attack from the bulk solvent without diffusing through the protein matrix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
JournalProtein Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Cytochrome c
  • Glycine mutations
  • Hydrogen exchange
  • Local fluctuation

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