Direct molecular level measurements of the electrostatic properties of a protein surface

S. Sivasankar, S. Subramaniam, D. Leckband

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In this work, we used direct measurements with the surface force apparatus to determine the pH-dependent electrostatic charge density of a single binding face of streptavidin. Mean field calculations have been used with considerable success to model electrostatic potential fields near protein surfaces, but these models and their inherent assumptions have not been tested directly at the molecular level. Using the force apparatus and immobilized, oriented monolayers of streptavidin, we measured a pI of 5-5.5 for the biotin-binding face of the protein. This differs from the pI of 6.3 for the soluble protein and confirms that we probed the local electrostatic features of the macromolecule. With finite difference solutions of the linearized Poisson-Boltzmann equation, we then calculated the pH-dependent charge densities adjacent to the same face of the protein. These calculated values agreed quantitatively with those obtained by direct force measurements. Although our study focuses on the pH-dependence of surface electrostatics, this direct approach to probing the electrostatic features of proteins is applicable to investigations of any perturbations that alter the charge distribution of the surfaces of immobilized molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12961-12966
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 27 1998

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