Detection of Native-State Nonadditivity in Double Mutant Cycles via Hydrogen Exchange

Proteins have evolved to exploit long-range structural and dynamic effects as a means of regulating function. Understanding communication between sites in proteins is therefore vital to our comprehension of such phenomena as allostery, catalysis, and ligand binding/ejection. Double mutant cycle analysis has long been used to determine the existence of communication between pairs of sites, proximal or distal, in proteins. Typically, nonadditivity (or “thermodynamic coupling”) is measured from global transitions in concert with a single probe. Here, we have applied the atomic resolution of NMR in tandem with native-state hydrogen exchange (HX) to probe the structure/energy landscape for information transduction between a large number of distal sites in a protein. Considering the event of amide proton exchange as an energetically quantifiable structural perturbation, m n-dimensional cycles can be constructed from mutation of n − 1 residues, where m is the number of residues for which HX data is available. Thus, efficient mapping of a large number of couplings is made possible. We have applied this technique to one additive and two nonadditive double mutant cycles in a model system, eglin c. We find heterogeneity of HX-monitored couplings for each cycle, yet averaging results in strong agreement with traditionally measured values. Furthermore, long-range couplings observed at locally exchanging residues indicate that the basis for communication can occur within the native state ensemble, a conclusion not apparent from traditional measurements. We propose that higher-order couplings can be obtained and show that such couplings provide a mechanistic basis for understanding lower-order couplings via “spheres of perturbation”. The method is presented as an additional tool for identifying a large number of couplings with greater coverage of the protein of interest.