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Access of ligands to cavities within the core of a protein is rapid


We have investigated the magnitude and timescale of fluctuations within the core of a protein using the exchange kinetics of indole and benzene binding to engineered hydrophobic cavities in T4 lysozyme. The crystal structures of variant-benzene complexes suggest that relatively large scale fluctuations (1-2 angstrom) of backbone atoms are required for entry of these ligands into the core. Nonetheless, these ligands enter the cavities rapidly, with bimolecular rate constants of approximately 10(6)-10(7) M(-1) s(-1) and a low activation barrier, 2-5 kcal mol(-1). These results suggest that protein cores undergo substantial fluctuations on the millisecond to microsecond timescale and that entry of small molecules into protein interiors is not strongly limited by steric occlusion.

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