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To characterize the structure of dynamic protein systems, such as partly disordered protein complexes, we propose a novel approach that relies on a combination of site-directed spin-labeled electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy and modeling of local rotation conformational spaces. We applied this approach to the intrinsically disordered C-terminal domain of the measles virus nucleoprotein (N(TAIL)) both free and in complex with the X domain (XD, aa 459-507) of the viral phosphoprotein. By comparing measured and modeled temperature-dependent restrictions of the side-chain conformational spaces of 12 SL cysteine-substituted N(TAIL) variants, we showed that the 490-500 region of N(TAIL) is prestructured in the absence of the partner, and were able to quantitatively estimate, for the first time to our knowledge, the extent of the alpha-helical sampling of the free form. In addition, we showed that the 505-525 region of N(TAIL) conserves a significant degree of freedom even in the bound form. The latter two findings provide a mechanistic explanation for the reported rather high affinity of the N(TAIL)-XD binding reaction. Due to the nanosecond timescale of X-band EPR spectroscopy, we were also able to monitor the disordering in the 488-525 region of N(TAIL), in particular the unfolding of the alpha-helical region when the temperature was increased from 281 K to 310 K.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





1055 - 1064


Computer Simulation, Crystallography, Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy, Measles virus, Models, Chemical, Models, Molecular, Nucleoproteins, Protein Conformation