Ultrafast hydration dynamics in melittin folding and aggregation: Helix formation and tetramer self-assembly

Weihong Qiu, Luyuan Zhang, Ya-Ting Kao, Wenyun Lu, Tanping Li, Jongjoo Kim, Gregory M. Sollenberger, Lijuan Wang, Dongping Zhong

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Melittin, an amphipathic peptide from honeybee venom, consists of 26 amino acid residues and adopts different conformations from a random coil, to an α-helix, and to a self-assembled tetramer under certain aqueous environments. We report here our systematic studies of the hydration dynamics in these conformations using single intrinsic tryptophan (W19) as a molecular probe. With femtosecond resolution, we observed the solvation dynamics occurring in 0.62 and 14.7 ps in a random-coiled primary structure. The former represents bulklike water motion, and the latter reflects surface-type hydration dynamics of proteins. As a comparison, a model tripeptide (KWK) was also studied. At a membrane-water interface, melittin folds into a secondary α-helical structure, and the interfacial water motion was found to take as long as 114 ps, indicating a well-ordered water structure along the membrane surface. In high-salt aqueous solution, the dielectric screening and ionic solvation promote the hydrophobic core collapse in melittin aggregation and facilitate the tetramer formation. This self-assembled tertiary structure is also stabilized by the strong hydrophilic interactions of charged C-terminal residues and associated ions with water molecules in the two assembled regions. The hydration dynamics was observed to occur in 87 ps, significantly slower than typical water relaxation at protein surfaces but similar to water motion at membrane interfaces. Thus, the observed time scale of ∼100 ps probably implies appropriate water mobility for mediating the formation of high-order structures of melittin in an α-helix and a self-assembled tetramer. These results elucidate the critical role of hydration dynamics in peptide conformational transitions and protein structural stability and integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16901-16910
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number35
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2005

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