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NMR spectroscopy can provide information about proteins in living cells. pH is an important characteristic of the intracellular environment because it modulates key protein properties such as net charge and stability. Here, we show that pH modulates quinary interactions, the weak, ubiquitous interactions between proteins and other cellular macromolecules. We use the K10H variant of the B domain of protein G (GB1, 6.2 kDa) as a pH reporter in Escherichia coli cells. By controlling the intracellular pH, we show that quinary interactions influence the quality of in-cell (15) N-(1) H HSQC NMR spectra. At low pH, the quality is degraded because the increase in attractive interactions between E. coli proteins and GB1 slows GB1 tumbling and broadens its crosspeaks. The results demonstrate the importance of quinary interactions for furthering our understanding of protein chemistry in living cells. © 2015 The Protein Society.


Rachel D Cohen, Alex J Guseman, Gary J Pielak. Intracellular pH modulates quinary structure. Protein science : a publication of the Protein Society. 2015 Nov;24(11):1748-55

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PMID: 26257390

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