The backbone dynamics of ferricytochrome b(562), a four-helix bundle protein from Escherichia coli, have been studied by NMR spectroscopy. The consequences of the introduction of a c-type thioether linkage between the heme and protein and the reduction to the ferrous cytochrome have also been analyzed. (15)N relaxation rates R(1) and R(2) and (1)H-(15)N NOEs were measured at proton Larmor frequencies of 500 and 600 MHz for the oxidized and reduced protein as well as for the oxidized R98C variant. In the latter protein, an "artificial" thioether covalent bond has been introduced between the heme group and the protein frame [Arnesano, F., Banci, L., Bertini, I., Ciofi-Baffoni, S., de Lumley Woodyear, T., Johnson, C. M., and Barker, P. D. (2000) Biochemistry 39, 1499-1514]. The (15)N relaxation data were analyzed with the ModelFree protocol, and the mobility parameters on the picosecond to nanosecond time scale were compared for the three species. The three forms are rather rigid as a whole, with average generalized order parameters values of 0.87 +/- 0.08 (oxidized cytochrome b(562)), 0.84 +/- 0.07 (reduced cytochrome b(562)), and 0.85 +/- 0.07 (oxidized R98C cytochrome b(562)), indicating similar mobility for each system. Lower order parameters (S(2)) are found for residues belonging to loops 1 and 2. Higher mobility, as indicated by lower order parameters, is found for heme binding helices alpha 1 and alpha 4 in the R98C variant with respect to the wild-type protein. The analysis requires a relatively long rotational correlation time (tau(m) = 9.6 ns) whose value is accounted for on the basis of the anisotropy of the molecular shape and the high phosphate concentration needed to ensure the occurrence of monomer species. A parallel study of motions in the millisecond to microsecond time scale has also been performed on oxidized wild-type and R98C cytochrome b(562). In a CPMG experiment, decay rates were analyzed in the presence of spin-echo pulse trains of variable spacing. The dynamic behavior on this time scale is similar to that observed on the sub-nanosecond time scale, showing an increased mobility in the residues connected to the heme ligands in the R98C variant. It appears that the increased protein stability of the variant, established previously, is not correlated with an increase in rigidity.
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