Simulation of structure, orientation, and energy transfer between AlexaFluor molecules attached to MscL

Ben Corry*, Dylan Jayatilaka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Measurements of time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer are finding many applications in the study of biological macromolecules as they enable structural properties of the host molecules to be determined in their natural environment. A difficulty in interpreting these experiments is that they both require knowledge of the relative orientation of the fluorophores, a property that is almost impossible to measure. Here we conduct simulations of AlexaFluor488 and AlexaFluor568 attached to two sites on the membrane channel MscL to provide an alternative mechanism for determining the likely configurations and orientational freedom of the fluorophores, as well as the most likely value of the orientation factor κ2 for energy transfer between them. The fluorophores are relatively mobile, and are found to be more so when immersed in bulk water than when they interact with the lipid membrane. The fluorophores never insert deeply into the lipid, despite their hydrophobic linkers and aromatic headgroup structures. Properties such as the fluorescence anisotropy decay can be predicted from simulations of the fluorophores in bulk water that closely match experimental data. In contrast, when the fluorophores were attached to the large MscL protein it was difficult to sample all the possible configurations of the fluorophores due to the computational time required. While this approach is likely to provide useful data on solvent-accessible fluorophores attached to small proteins, simulations lasting >50 ns or the use of biasing forces are required to accurately predict orientation factors for use in energy transfer experiments on larger membrane-bound proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2711-2721
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2008
Externally publishedYes


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