Cryoprotection of lipid membranes for high-resolution solid-state NMR studies of membrane peptides and proteins at low temperature

Solid-state DNP-NMR are typically performed at cryogenic temperatures and samples, especially bio-macromolecules often require cryo-protection. This is a recent review about sample preparation and cryo-protecting samples to preserve the spectral resolution.

Lee, M. and M. Hong, Cryoprotection of lipid membranes for high-resolution solid-state NMR studies of membrane peptides and proteins at low temperature. J Biomol NMR, 2014. 59(4): p. 263-277.

Solid-state NMR spectra of membrane proteins often show significant line broadening at cryogenic temperatures. Here we investigate the effects of several cryoprotectants to preserve the spectral resolution of lipid membranes and membrane peptides at temperatures down to ~200 K. Trehalose, glycerol, dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), dimethylformamide (DMF), and polyethylene glycol (PEG), were chosen. These compounds are commonly used in protein crystallography and cryobiology. 13C and 1H magic-angle-spinning spectra of several types of lipid membranes show that DMSO provides the best resolution enhancement over unprotected membranes and also best retards ice formation at low temperature. DMF and PEG-400 show slightly weaker cryoprotection, while glycerol and trehalose neither prevent membrane line broadening nor prevent ice formation under the conditions of our study. Neutral saturated-chain phospholipids are the most amenable to cryoprotection, whereas negatively charged and unsaturated lipids attenuate cryoprotection. 13C-1H dipolar couplings and 31P chemical shift anisotropies indicate that high spectral resolution at low temperature is correlated with stronger immobilization of the lipids at high temperature, indicating that line narrowing results from reduction of the conformational space sampled by the lipid molecules at high temperature. DMSO selectively narrowed the linewidths of the most disordered residues in the influenza M2 transmembrane peptide, while residues that exhibit narrow linewidths in the unprotected membrane are less impacted. A relatively rigid beta-hairpin antimicrobial peptide, PG-1, showed a linewidth increase of ~0.5 ppm over a ~70 K temperature drop both with and without cryoprotection. Finally, a short-chain saturated lipid, DLPE, exhibits excellent linewidths, suggesting that it may be a good medium for membrane protein structure determination. The three best cryoprotectants found in this work-DMSO, PEG, and DMF-should be useful for low-temperature membrane-protein structural studies by SSNMR without compromising spectral resolution.

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