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Investigation into the Relaxation Dynamics of Polymer–Protein Conjugates Reveals Surprising Role of Polymer Solvation on Inherent Protein Flexibility

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journal contribution
posted on 11.01.2016, 00:00 authored by Daniela Russo, Marie Plazanet, José Teixeira, Martine Moulin, Michael Härtlein, Frederik R. Wurm, Tobias Steinbach
Fully biodegradable protein–polymer conjugates, namely, MBP-PMeEP (maltose binding protein–poly methyl-ethylene phosphonate), have been investigated in order to understand the role of polymer solvation on protein flexibility. Using elastic and quasi-elastic incoherent neutron scattering, in combination with partially deuterated conjugate systems, we are able to disentangle the polymer dynamics from the protein dynamics and meaningfully address the coupling between both components. We highlight that, in the dry state, the protein–polymer conjugates lack any dynamical transition in accordance with the generally observed behavior for dry proteins. In addition, we observe a larger flexibility of the conjugated protein, compared to the native protein, as well as a lack of polymer–glass transition. Only upon water hydration does the conjugate recover its dynamical transition, leading to the conclusion that exclusive polymer solvation is insufficient to unfreeze fluctuations on the picosecond–nanosecond time scale in biomolecules. Our results also confirm the established coupling between polymer and protein dynamics in the conjugate.