Evaluation of the tert-butyl group as a probe for NMR studies of macromolecular complexes

Rashmi Voleti, Sofia Bali, Jaime Guerrero, Jared Smothers, Charis Springhower, Gerardo A. Acosta, Kyle D. Brewer, Fernando Albericio, Josep Rizo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The development of methyl transverse relaxation optimized spectroscopy has greatly facilitated the study of macromolecular assemblies by solution NMR spectroscopy. However, limited sample solubility and stability has hindered application of this technique to ongoing studies of complexes formed on membranes by the neuronal SNAREs that mediate neurotransmitter release and synaptotagmin-1, the Ca2+ sensor that triggers release. Since the 1H NMR signal of a tBu group attached to a large protein or complex can be observed with high sensitivity if the group retains high mobility, we have explored the use of this strategy to analyze presynaptic complexes involved in neurotransmitter release. For this purpose, we attached tBu groups at single cysteines of fragments of synaptotagmin-1, complexin-1 and the neuronal SNAREs by reaction with 5-(tert-butyldisulfaneyl)-2-nitrobenzoic acid (BDSNB), tBu iodoacetamide or tBu acrylate. The tBu resonances of the tagged proteins were generally sharp and intense, although tBu groups attached with BDSNB had a tendency to exhibit somewhat broader resonances that likely result because of the shorter linkage between the tBu and the tagged cysteine. Incorporation of the tagged proteins into complexes on nanodiscs led to severe broadening of the tBu resonances in some cases. However, sharp tBu resonances could readily be observed for some complexes of more than 200 kDa at low micromolar concentrations. Our results show that tagging of proteins with tBu groups provides a powerful approach to study large biomolecular assemblies of limited stability and/or solubility that may be applicable even at nanomolar concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-363
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of biomolecular NMR
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Complexin
  • Macromolecular assemblies
  • Neurotransmitter release
  • SNARE complex
  • Slow relaxation
  • Synaptotagmin
  • Tert-butyl NMR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Spectroscopy


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