JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results






Site Directed Spin Labeling and EPR Spectroscopic Studies of Pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channels

Published: July 4th, 2016



1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Case Western Reserve University, 2School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

This article describes methods for site-directed spin labeling and reconstitution of pentameric ligand-gated channels for Electron Paramagnetic Resonance studies. This protocol can be adapted for any membrane protein. The reconstitution method described here can also be used for patch-clamp measurements of macroscopic and single-channel currents in a defined lipid system.

Ion channel gating is a stimulus-driven orchestration of protein motions that leads to transitions between closed, open, and desensitized states. Fundamental to these transitions is the intrinsic flexibility of the protein, which is critically modulated by membrane lipid-composition. To better understand the structural basis of channel function, it is necessary to study protein dynamics in a physiological membrane environment. Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy is an important tool to characterize conformational transitions between functional states. In comparison to NMR and X-ray crystallography, the information obtained from EPR is intrinsically of lower resolution. However, unlike in other techniques, in EPR there is no upper-limit to the molecular weight of the protein, the sample requirements are significantly lower, and more importantly the protein is not constrained by the crystal lattice forces. Therefore, EPR is uniquely suited for studying large protein complexes and proteins in reconstituted systems. In this article, we will discuss general protocols for site-directed spin labeling and membrane reconstitution using a prokaryotic proton-gated pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channel (pLGIC) from Gloeobacter violaceus (GLIC) as an example. A combination of steady-state Continuous Wave (CW) and Pulsed (Double Electron Electron Resonance-DEER) EPR approaches will be described that will enable a complete quantitative characterization of channel dynamics.

Over the last decade, the structural understanding of pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGIC) has grown in leaps and bounds, owing to multitudes of high-resolution structures of several members of the family. Key factors that led to the current advancements in the field include, the discovery of prokaryotic pLGIC channels,1-3 major progresses in eukaryotic membrane protein expression,4-6 and tremendous breakthroughs in structure determination approaches.7 These structures provide a clear consensus on the overall conservation of the three-dimensional architecture of pLGIC. However, two major areas that seem to trail behind are the ....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

1. Site-Directed Mutagenesis and Cys Mutations

  1. Cloning and Mutagenesis
    NOTE: GLIC wild type (wt) 35 has a single-native cysteine (C27), which is mutated to serine to create a cysteine-less background. Cysteine mutations are introduced on the cysteine-less background by site-directed mutagenesis using primers that carry a cysteine codon at the desired position36.
    1. Mix 5 μl of 10x reaction buffer, 1 μl of 100 ng/μl cysteine-less GLIC template DNA

      Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Biochemical Characterization of Spin-labeled GLIC Mutants

Following the above described protocol would typically yield GLIC-MBP fusion protein in the range of 10 - 12 mg/L of culture. Although this value may vary across different mutants, particularly for positions buried within the protein, the yield may be significantly compromised. In these cases, the culture volumes may require scaling up. The cleavage of th.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

EPR spectroscopy has proven to be an unparalleled structural approach in quantifying conformational changes in membrane proteins in a near-native environment. This approach allows us a peek into the molecular details of protein dynamics that are obscured in high-resolution structures from X-ray crystallography and Cryo-electron microscopy. However, it is important to consider the technical limitations of this approach that may affect the general applicability to other systems and also to keep in mind the potential experi.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

We are very grateful to the current and former members of the Chakrapani lab for critical reading and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant (1R01GM108921) and the American Heart Association (NCRP Scientist Development Grant 12SDG12070069) and to SC.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Site-Directed Mutagenesis and Cys mutations
10x PfuUltra HF reaction buffer Agilent Technologies 600380-52
dNTPS New England BioLabs Inc‎ N0447L 10mM each dNTP
pfu Ultra DNA polymerase Agilent Technologies 600380-51 2.5 U/ul
DPNI New England BioLabs Inc‎ R0176S 20,000 U/ml
XL10 GOLD Agilent Technologies 200314
SOC media New England BioLabs Inc‎ B9020S
Kanamycin Fisher Scientfic BP905
LB media Invitrogen 127957084
Miniprep kit QIAGEN 27106
C43 competent cells Lucigen 60446
Expression and Purification
Glucose Fisher Scientfic D16
Tryptone Fisher Bioreagents BP1421-500
Yeast extract Amresco J850
Glycerol Fisher Bioreagents BP229
K2HPO4 Amresco 0705
KH2PO4 Amresco 0781
IPTG (isopropyl-thio-β-galactoside) Gold Biotechnology I2481C25
Trizma Base Sigma Life Science T1503
NaCl Sigma-Aldrich S7653
DNase I Sigma Life Science DN25
PMSF Amresco M145
Leupeptine Amresco J580
Pepstatin Amresco J583
DDM (n-Docecyl-β-D-Maltopyranoside) Anatrace D310S
Amylose resin New England BioLabs Inc‎ E8021L
TCEP Amresco K831
EDTA Fisher Scientfic BP118
Maltose Acros Organics 329915000
Superdex 200GL GE Healthcare 17-5175-01
Empty polypropylene Chromatography column BioRad 731-1550
Site-Directed Spin Labeling
MTSL (1-oxyl-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-3-pyrroline-3-methyl) Methanethiosulfonate Toronto Reaserch chemicals Inc O873900
(1-acetoxy-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-Δ3-pyrroline-3-methyl) methanethiosulfonate Toronto Reaserch chemicals Inc A167900
DMSO J.T. Baker 9224-01
Asolectin lipid Avanti polar lipids Inc 541602C
Biobeads (Polystyrine beads) Bio Rad 152-3920
Methanol Fisher chemicals A413
Fluorescein-maleimide ThermoFisher Scientific F-150
Tetramethylrhodamine-maleimide ThermoFisher Scientific T-6027
POPC Avanti polar lipids Inc 850457C
POPG Avanti polar lipids Inc 840457C
E.Coli polar lipid extract Avanti polar lipids Inc 100600C
HEPES Sigma Life Science H3375
EPR measurement
TPX plastic capillaries Bruker ER221
EDDA (Ethylenediamine-N, N'-diacetic acid) Aldrich 158186
Ni(OH)2 Aldrich 283622

  1. Tasneem, A., Iyer, L. M., Jakobsson, E., Aravind, L. Identification of the prokaryotic ligand-gated ion channels and their implications for the mechanisms and origins of animal Cys-loop ion channels. Genome Biol. 6, 4 (2005).
  2. Hilf, R. J., Dutzler, R. X-ray structure of a prokaryotic pentameric ligand-gated ion channel. Nature. 452 (7185), 375-379 (2008).
  3. Bocquet, N., et al. X-ray structure of a pentameric ligand-gated ion channel in an apparently open conformation. Nature. 457 (7225), 111-114 (2009).
  4. Hibbs, R. E., Gouaux, E. Principles of activation and permeation in an anion-selective Cys-loop receptor. Nature. 474 (7349), 54-60 (2011).
  5. Miller, P. S., Aricescu, A. R. Crystal structure of a human GABAA receptor. Nature. 512 (7514), 270-275 (2014).
  6. Hassaine, G., et al. X-ray structure of the mouse serotonin 5-HT3 receptor. Nature. 512 (7514), 276-281 (2014).
  7. Du, J., Lu, W., Wu, S., Cheng, Y., Gouaux, E. Glycine receptor mechanism elucidated by electron cryo-microscopy. Nature. , (2015).
  8. Sunshine, C., McNamee, M. G. Lipid modulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor function: the role of neutral and negatively charged lipids. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1108, 240-246 (1992).
  9. Fong, T. M., McNamee, M. G. Correlation between acetylcholine receptor function and structural properties of membranes. Biochemistry. 25 (4), 830-840 (1986).
  10. daCosta, C. J., Baenziger, J. E. A lipid-dependent uncoupled conformation of the acetylcholine receptor. J Biol Chem. 284 (26), 17819-17825 (2009).
  11. Criado, M., Eibl, H., Barrantes, F. J. Functional properties of the acetylcholine receptor incorporated in model lipid membranes. Differential effects of chain length and head group of phospholipids on receptor affinity states and receptor-mediated ion translocation. J Biol Chem. 259 (14), 9188-9198 (1984).
  12. Hubbell, W. L., Lopez, C. J., Altenbach, C., Yang, Z. Technological advances in site-directed spin labeling of proteins. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 23 (5), 725-733 (2013).
  13. Columbus, L., Hubbell, W. L. A new spin on protein dynamics. Trends Biochem Sci. 27 (6), 288-295 (2002).
  14. Hubbell, W. L., Cafiso, D. S., Altenbach, C. Identifying conformational changes with site-directed spin labeling. Nat Struct Biol. 7 (9), 735-739 (2000).
  15. McHaourab, H. S., Steed, P. R., Kazmier, K. Toward the fourth dimension of membrane protein structure: insight into dynamics from spin-labeling EPR spectroscopy. Structure. 19 (11), 1549-1561 (2011).
  16. Bordignon, E. Site-directed spin labeling of membrane proteins. Top Curr Chem. 321, 121-157 (2012).
  17. Klare, J. P., Steinhoff, H. J. Spin labeling EPR. Photosynth Res. 102 (2-3), 377-390 (2009).
  18. Drescher, M. EPR in protein science : intrinsically disordered proteins. Top Curr Chem. 321, 91-119 (2012).
  19. Perozo, E., Cuello, L. G., Cortes, D. M., Liu, Y. S., Sompornpisut, P. EPR approaches to ion channel structure and function. Novartis Found Symp. 245, 146-158 (2002).
  20. Fanucci, G. E., Cafiso, D. S. Recent advances and applications of site-directed spin labeling. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 16 (5), 644-653 (2006).
  21. Sahu, I. D., McCarrick, R. M., Lorigan, G. A. Use of electron paramagnetic resonance to solve biochemical problems. Biochemistry. 52 (35), 5967-5984 (2013).
  22. Hubbell, W. L., McHaourab, H. S., Altenbach, C., Lietzow, M. A. Watching proteins move using site-directed spin labeling. Structure. 4 (7), 779-783 (1996).
  23. Altenbach, C., Marti, T., Khorana, H. G., Hubbell, W. L. Transmembrane protein structure: spin labeling of bacteriorhodopsin mutants. Science. 248 (4959), 1088-1092 (1990).
  24. McHaourab, H. S., Lietzow, M. A., Hideg, K., Hubbell, W. L. Motion of spin-labeled side chains in T4 lysozyme. Correlation with protein structure and dynamics. Biochemistry. 35 (24), 7692-7704 (1996).
  25. Farahbakhsh, Z. T., Altenbach, C., Hubbell, W. L. Spin labeled cysteines as sensors for protein-lipid interaction and conformation in rhodopsin. Photochem Photobiol. 56 (6), 1019-1033 (1992).
  26. Altenbach, C., Greenhalgh, D. A., Khorana, H. G., Hubbell, W. L. A collision gradient method to determine the immersion depth of nitroxides in lipid bilayers: application to spin-labeled mutants of bacteriorhodopsin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 91 (5), 1667-1671 (1994).
  27. Altenbach, C., Froncisz, W., Hemker, R., McHaourab, H., Hubbell, W. L. Accessibility of nitroxide side chains: absolute Heisenberg exchange rates from power saturation EPR. Biophys J. 89 (3), 2103-2112 (2005).
  28. Rabenstein, M. D., Shin, Y. K. Determination of the distance between two spin labels attached to a macromolecule. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 92 (18), 8239-8243 (1995).
  29. Altenbach, C., Oh, K. J., Trabanino, R. J., Hideg, K., Hubbell, W. L. Estimation of inter-residue distances in spin labeled proteins at physiological temperatures: experimental strategies and practical limitations. Biochemistry. 40 (51), 15471-15482 (2001).
  30. Borbat, P. P., McHaourab, H. S., Freed, J. H. Protein structure determination using long-distance constraints from double-quantum coherence ESR: study of T4 lysozyme. J Am Chem Soc. 124 (19), 5304-5314 (2002).
  31. Chiang, Y. W., Borbat, P. P., Freed, J. H. The determination of pair distance distributions by pulsed ESR using Tikhonov regularization. J Magn Reson. 172 (2), 279-295 (2005).
  32. Jeschke, G. DEER distance measurements on proteins. Annu Rev Phys Chem. 63, 419-446 (2012).
  33. Jeschke, G., Polyhach, Y. Distance measurements on spin-labelled biomacromolecules by pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance. Phys Chem Chem Phys. 9 (16), 1895-1910 (2007).
  34. Jeschke, G., Wegener, C., Nietschke, M., Jung, H., Steinhoff, H. J. Interresidual distance determination by four-pulse double electron-electron resonance in an integral membrane protein: the Na+/proline transporter PutP of Escherichia coli. Biophys J. 86 (4), 2551-2557 (2004).
  35. Hilf, R. J., Dutzler, R. Structure of a potentially open state of a proton-activated pentameric ligand-gated ion channel. Nature. 457 (7225), 115-118 (2009).
  36. Velisetty, P., Chalamalasetti, S. V., Chakrapani, S. Conformational transitions underlying pore opening and desensitization in membrane-embedded Gloeobacter violaceus ligand-gated ion channel (GLIC). J Biol Chem. 287 (44), 36864-36872 (2012).
  37. Birnboim, H. C., Doly, J. A rapid alkaline extraction procedure for screening recombinant plasmid DNA. Nucleic Acids Res. 7 (6), 1513-1523 (1979).
  38. Sanger, F., Nicklen, S., Coulson, A. R. DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 74 (12), 5463-5467 (1977).
  39. Sanger, F., Coulson, A. R. A rapid method for determining sequences in DNA by primed synthesis with DNA polymerase. J Mol Biol. 94 (3), 441-448 (1975).
  40. McHaourab, H. S., Kalai, T., Hideg, K., Hubbell, W. L. Motion of spin-labeled side chains in T4 lysozyme: effect of side chain structure. Biochemistry. 38 (10), 2947-2955 (1999).
  41. Gross, A., Columbus, L., Hideg, K., Altenbach, C., Hubbell, W. L. Structure of the KcsA potassium channel from Streptomyces lividans: a site-directed spin labeling study of the second transmembrane segment. Biochemistry. 38 (32), 10324-10335 (1999).
  42. Velisetty, P., Chakrapani, S. Desensitization mechanism in a Prokaryotic ligand-gated ion channel. J Biol Chem. 287 (22), (2012).
  43. Velisetty, P., Chakrapani, S. Desensitization mechanism in prokaryotic ligand-gated ion channel. J Biol Chem. 287 (22), 18467-18477 (2012).
  44. Chakrapani, S., Cuello, L. G., Cortes, D. M., Perozo, E. Structural dynamics of an isolated voltage-sensor domain in a lipid bilayer. Structure. 16 (3), 398-409 (2008).
  45. Cuello, L. G., Cortes, D. M., Perozo, E. Structural dynamics of the KvAP pore domain lacking the voltage sensing domain. Biophysical Journal. 88 (1), 19-20 (2005).
  46. Perozo, E., Cortes, D. M., Cuello, L. G. Structural rearrangements underlying K+-channel activation gating. Science. 285 (5424), 73-78 (1999).
  47. Chakrapani, S., Sompornpisut, P., Intharathep, P., Roux, B., Perozo, E. The activated state of a sodium channel voltage sensor in a membrane environment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107 (12), 5435-5440 (2010).
  48. Vasquez, V., Sotomayor, M., Cordero-Morales, J., Schulten, K., Perozo, E. A structural mechanism for MscS gating in lipid bilayers. Science. 321 (5893), 1210-1214 (2008).
  49. Perozo, E., Cortes, D. M., Sompornpisut, P., Kloda, A., Martinac, B. Open channel structure of MscL and the gating mechanism of mechanosensitive channels. Nature. 418 (6901), 942-948 (2002).
  50. Kim, M., Xu, Q., Murray, D., Cafiso, D. S. Solutes alter the conformation of the ligand binding loops in outer membrane transporters. Biochemistry. 47 (2), 670-679 (2008).
  51. Kazmier, K., Sharma, S., Islam, S. M., Roux, B., McHaourab, H. S. Conformational cycle and ion-coupling mechanism of the Na+/hydantoin transporter Mhp1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111 (41), 14752-14757 (2014).
  52. Durr, K. L., et al. Structure and dynamics of AMPA receptor GluA2 in resting, pre-open, and desensitized states. Cell. 158 (4), 778-792 (2014).
  53. Borbat, P. P., et al. Conformational motion of the ABC transporter MsbA induced by ATP hydrolysis. PLoS Biol. 5 (10), e271 (2007).
  54. Zou, P., McHaourab, H. S. Increased sensitivity and extended range of distance measurements in spin-labeled membrane proteins: Q-band double electron-electron resonance and nanoscale bilayers. Biophys J. 98 (6), 18-20 (2010).
  55. Pannier, M., Veit, S., Godt, A., Jeschke, G., Spiess, H. W. Dead-time free measurement of dipole-dipole interactions between electron spins. J Magn Reson. 142 (2), 331-340 (2000).
  56. Jeschke, G., et al. DeerAnalysis2006-a comprehensive software package for analyzing pulsed ELDOR data. Applied Magnetic Resonance. 30 (3-4), 473-498 (2006).
  57. Ruta, V., Jiang, Y., Lee, A., Chen, J., MacKinnon, R. Functional analysis of an archaebacterial voltage-dependent K+ channel. Nature. 422 (6928), 180-185 (2003).
  58. Velisetty, P., Chalamalasetti, S. V., Chakrapani, S. Structural basis for allosteric coupling at the membrane-protein interface in Gloeobacter violaceus ligand-gated ion channel (GLIC). J Biol Chem. 289 (5), 3013-3025 (2014).
  59. Dellisanti, C. D., et al. Site-directed spin labeling reveals pentameric ligand-gated ion channel gating motions. PLoS Biol. 11 (11), e1001714 (2013).
  60. Labriola, J. M., et al. Structural sensitivity of a prokaryotic pentameric ligand-gated ion channel to its membrane environment. J Biol Chem. 288 (16), 11294-11303 (2013).
  61. Kinde, M. N., et al. Conformational Changes Underlying Desensitization of the Pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channel ELIC. Structure. 23 (6), 995-1004 (2015).
  62. Vasquez, V., Cortes, D. M., Furukawa, H., Perozo, E. An optimized purification and reconstitution method for the MscS channel: strategies for spectroscopical analysis. Biochemistry. 46 (23), 6766-6773 (2007).
  63. Bayburt, T. H., Sligar, S. G. Membrane protein assembly into Nanodiscs. FEBS Lett. 584 (9), 1721-1727 (2010).
  64. Hanson, S. M., Francis, D. J., Vishnivetskiy, S. A., Klug, C. S., Gurevich, V. V. Visual arrestin binding to microtubules involves a distinct conformational change. J Biol Chem. 281 (14), 9765-9772 (2006).
  65. McCoy, J., Hubbell, W. L. High-pressure EPR reveals conformational equilibria and volumetric properties of spin-labeled proteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108 (4), 1331-1336 (2011).
  66. Mobius, K., et al. Combining high-field EPR with site-directed spin labeling reveals unique information on proteins in action. Magn Reson Chem. 43, 4-19 (2005).
  67. Lopez, C. J., Oga, S., Hubbell, W. L. Mapping Molecular Flexibility of Proteins with Site-Directed Spin Labeling: A Case Study of Myoglobin. Biochemistry. 51 (33), 6568-6583 (2012).
  68. Fleissner, M. R., et al. Site-directed spin labeling of a genetically encoded unnatural amino acid. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106 (51), 21637-21642 (2009).
  69. Lorenzi, M., et al. Tyrosine-targeted spin labeling and EPR spectroscopy: an alternative strategy for studying structural transitions in proteins. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 50 (39), 9108-9111 (2011).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved