An increasing number of membrane proteins in different membrane-mimetic systems have become accessible to reversible unfolding experiments monitored by well-established ensemble techniques. However, only little information is available about kinetic processes during membrane-protein folding, mainly because of experimental challenges and a lack of methods suitable for observing highly dynamic membrane proteins. Here, we present single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) confocal spectroscopy as a powerful tool in kinetic studies of membrane-protein folding in membrane-mimetic environments. We have developed a rigorous workflow demonstrating how to identify and quantify such dynamic processes using a set of qualitative, semiquantitative, and quantitative analytical tools. Using this workflow, we analyzed urea-induced folding and unfolding experiments on the α-helical membrane protein Mistic in the presence of the zwitterionic detergent n-dodecylphosphocholine (DPC). We identified two-state interconversion dynamics on the millisecond time scale of a protein folding into and out of detergent micelles. Our results demonstrate that smFRET is a promising tool for probing the chemical physics of membrane-protein structure and dynamics in the complex and anisotropic environment of a hydrophilic/hydrophobic interface, providing insights into protein interconversion dynamics without the need and challenges of synchronization.
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - 12 Oct 2015|