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Harnessing photoinduced electron transfer to optically determine protein sub-nanoscale atomic distances


Proteins possess a complex and dynamic structure, which is influenced by external signals and may change as they perform their biological functions. We present an optical approach, distance-encoding photoinduced electron transfer (DEPET), capable of the simultaneous study of protein structure and function. An alternative to FRET-based methods, DEPET is based on the quenching of small conjugated fluorophores by photoinduced electron transfer: a reaction that requires contact of the excited fluorophore with a suitable electron donor. This property allows DEPET to exhibit exceptional spatial and temporal resolution capabilities in the range pertinent to protein conformational change. We report the first implementation of DEPET on human large-conductance K+ (BK) channels under voltage clamp. We describe conformational rearrangements underpinning BK channel sensitivity to electrical excitation, in conducting channels expressed in living cells. Finally, we validate DEPET in synthetic peptide length standards, to evaluate its accuracy in measuring sub- and near-nanometer intramolecular distances.

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