Single-molecule tweezers, such as magnetic tweezers, are powerful tools for probing nm-scale structural changes in single membrane proteins under force. However, the weak molecular tethers used for the membrane protein studies have limited the observation of long-time, repetitive molecular transitions due to force-induced bond breakage. The prolonged observation of numerous transitions is critical in reliable characterizations of structural states, kinetics, and energy barrier properties. Here, we present a robust single-molecule tweezer method that uses dibenzocyclooctyne (DBCO) cycloaddition and traptavidin binding, enabling the estimation of the folding 'speed limit' of helical membrane proteins. This method is >100 times more stable than a conventional linkage system regarding the lifetime, allowing for the survival for ~12 h at 50 pN and ~1000 pulling cycle experiments. By using this method, we were able to observe numerous structural transitions of a designer single-chained transmembrane (TM) homodimer for 9 h at 12 pN, and reveal its folding pathway including the hidden dynamics of helix-coil transitions. We characterized the energy barrier heights and folding times for the transitions using a model-independent deconvolution method and the hidden Markov modeling (HMM) analysis, respectively. The Kramers rate framework yields a considerably low speed limit of 21 ms for a helical hairpin formation in lipid bilayers, compared to μs scale for soluble protein folding. This large discrepancy is likely due to the highly viscous nature of lipid membranes, retarding the helix-helix interactions. Our results offer a more valid guideline for relating the kinetics and free energies of membrane protein folding.
All data and analysis codes that support the findings of this study are available in the manuscript, figure supplements, source data, and source code files.
- Duyoung Min
- Duyoung Min
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Heedeok Hong, Michigan State University, United States
© 2023, Kim et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Previously we showed that 2D template matching (2DTM) can be used to localize macromolecular complexes in images recorded by cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) with high precision, even in the presence of noise and cellular background (Lucas et al., 2021; Lucas et al., 2022). Here, we show that once localized, these particles may be averaged together to generate high-resolution 3D reconstructions. However, regions included in the template may suffer from template bias, leading to inflated resolution estimates and making the interpretation of high-resolution features unreliable. We evaluate conditions that minimize template bias while retaining the benefits of high-precision localization, and we show that molecular features not present in the template can be reconstructed at high resolution from targets found by 2DTM, extending prior work at low-resolution. Moreover, we present a quantitative metric for template bias to aid the interpretation of 3D reconstructions calculated with particles localized using high-resolution templates and fine angular sampling.
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