Peptide self-association in aqueous trifluoroethanol monitored by pulsed field gradient NMR diffusion measurements

Shenggen Yao, Geoffrey J. Howlett, Raymond S. Norton

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Defining the self-association state of a molecule in solution can be an important step in NMR-based structure determination. This is particularly true of peptides, where there can be a relatively small number of long-range interactions and misinterpretation of an intermolecular NOE as an intramolecular contact can have a dramatic influence on the final calculated structure. In this paper, we have investigated the use of translational self- diffusion coefficient measurements to detect self-association in aqueous trifluoroethanol of three peptides which are analogues of the C-terminal region of human neuropeptide Y. Experimentally measured diffusion coefficients were extrapolated to D0, the limiting value as the peptide concentration approaches zero, and then converted to D(20.w), the diffusion coefficient after correction for temperature and the viscosity of the solvent. A decrease in D(20,w) of about 16% was found for all three peptides in aqueous TFE (30% by volume) compared with water, which is in reasonable agreement with the expected decrease upon dimerisation, the presence of which was indicated by sedimentation equilibrium measurements. Apparent molecular masses of these peptides in both solutions were also calculated from their diffusion coefficients and similar results were obtained. Several potential internal standards, including acetone, acetonitrile, dimethylsulfoxide and dioxane, were assessed as monitors of solution viscosity over a range of trifluoroethanol concentrations. Compared with independent measurements of viscosity, acetonitrile was the most accurate standard among these four. The practical limitations of a quantitative assessment of peptide self- association from translational diffusion coefficients measured by PFGNMR, including the calculation of apparent molecular mass, are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomolecular NMR
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Apparent molecular mass
  • Internal standard
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Pulsed field gradient NMR
  • Self-association
  • Translational self-diffusion coefficient

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