Beat Fierz

Technische Universität München, München, Bavaria, Germany

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Publications (12)53.86 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The dynamics of peptide α-helices have been studied extensively for many years, and the kinetic mechanism of the helix-coil dynamics has been discussed controversially. Recent experimental results have suggested that equilibrium helix-coil dynamics are governed by movement of the helix/coil boundary along the peptide chain, which leads to slower unfolding kinetics in the helix center compared with the helix ends and position-independent helix formation kinetics. We tested this diffusion of boundary model in helical peptides of different lengths by triplet-triplet energy transfer measurements and compared the data with simulations based on a kinetic linear Ising model. The results show that boundary diffusion in helical peptides can be described by a classical, Einstein-type, 1D diffusion process with a diffusion coefficient of 2.7⋅10(7) (amino acids)(2)/s or 6.1⋅10(-9) cm(2)/s. In helices with a length longer than about 40 aa, helix unfolding by coil nucleation in a helical region occurs frequently in addition to boundary diffusion. Boundary diffusion is slowed down by helix-stabilizing capping motifs at the helix ends in agreement with predictions from the kinetic linear Ising model. We further tested local and nonlocal effects of amino acid replacements on helix-coil dynamics. Single amino acid replacements locally affect folding and unfolding dynamics with a f-value of 0.35, which shows that interactions leading to different helix propensities for different amino acids are already partially present in the transition state for helix formation. Nonlocal effects of amino acid replacements only influence helix unfolding (f = 0) in agreement with a diffusing boundary mechanism.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Coupling fast triplet-triplet energy transfer (TTET) between xanthone and naphthylalanine to the helix-coil equilibrium in alanine-based peptides allowed the observation of local equilibrium fluctuations in alpha-helices on the nanoseconds to microseconds time scale. The experiments revealed faster helix unfolding in the terminal regions compared with the central parts of the helix with time constants varying from 250 ns to 1.4 micros at 5 degrees C. Local helix formation occurs with a time constant of approximately 400 ns, independent of the position in the helix. Comparing the experimental data with simulations using a kinetic Ising model showed that the experimentally observed dynamics can be explained by a 1-dimensional boundary diffusion with position-independent elementary time constants of approximately 50 ns for the addition and of approximately 65 ns for the removal of an alpha-helical segment. The elementary time constant for helix growth agrees well with previously measured time constants for formation of short loops in unfolded polypeptide chains, suggesting that helix elongation is mainly limited by a conformational search.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2009; 106(4):1057-62. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Beat Fierz, Thomas Kiefhaber
    01/2008: pages 809 - 855; , ISBN: 9783527619498
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    ABSTRACT: Intrachain diffusion processes play an important role in protein folding and function. In this chapter we discuss the application of triplet-triplet energy transfer to directly measure rate constants for intrachain contact formation in polypeptide chains. The photochemistry of triplet-triplet energy transfer is described, experimental prerequisites of the method are discussed, and a detailed description of the experimental protocols and data analysis is given.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 02/2007; 350:169-87. · 1.29 Impact Factor
  • Beat Fierz, Thomas Kiefhaber
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    ABSTRACT: The conformational search for favorable intramolecular interactions during protein folding is limited by intrachain diffusion processes. Recent studies on the dynamics of loop formation in unfolded polypeptide chains have focused on loops involving residues near the chain ends. During protein folding, however, most contacts are formed between residues in the interior of the chain. We compared the kinetics of end-to-end loop formation (type I loops) to the formation of end-to-interior (type II loops) and interior-to-interior loops (type III loops) using triplet-triplet energy transfer from xanthone to naphthylalanine. The results show that formation of type II and type III loops is slower compared to type I loops of the same size and amino acid sequence. The rate constant for type II loop formation decreases with increasing overall chain dimensions up to a limiting value, at which loop formation is about 2.5-fold slower for type II loops compared to type I loops. Comparing type II loops of different loop size and amino acid sequence shows that the ratio of loop dimension over total chain dimension determines the rate constant for loop formation. Formation of type III loops is 1.7-fold slower than formation of type II loops, indicating that local chain motions are strongly coupled to motions of other chain segments which leads to faster dynamics toward the chain ends. Our results show that differences in the kinetics of formation of type I, type II, and type III loops are mainly caused by differences in internal flexibility at the different positions in the polypeptide chain. Interactions of the polypeptide chain with the solvent contribute to the kinetics of loop formation, which are strongly viscosity-dependent. However, the observed differences in the kinetics of formation of type I, type II, and type III loops are not due to the increased number of peptide-solvent interactions in type II and type III loops compared to type I loops as indicated by identical viscosity dependencies for the kinetics of formation of the different types of loops.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 02/2007; 129(3):672-9. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intrachain loop formation allows unfolded polypeptide chains to search for favorable interactions during protein folding. We applied triplet-triplet energy transfer between a xanthone moiety and naphthylalanine to directly measure loop formation in various unfolded polypeptide chains with loop regions consisting of polyserine, poly(glycine-serine) or polyproline. By combination of femtosecond and nanosecond laserflash experiments loop formation could be studied over many orders of magnitude in time from picoseconds to microseconds. The results reveal processes on different time scales indicating motions on different hierarchical levels of the free energy surface. A minor (<15%) very fast reaction with a time constant of approximately 3 ps indicates equilibrium conformations with donor and acceptor in contact at the time of the laserflash. Complex kinetics of loop formation were observed on the 50- to 500-ps time scale, which indicate motions within a local well on the energy landscape. Conformations within this well can form loops by undergoing local motions without having to cross major barriers. Exponential kinetics observed on the 10- to 100-ns time scale are caused by diffusional processes involving large-scale motions that allow the polypeptide chain to explore the complete conformational space. These results indicate that the free energy landscape for unfolded polypeptide chains and native proteins have similar properties. The presence of local energy minima reduces the conformational space and accelerates the conformational search for energetically favorable local intrachain contacts.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2007; 104(7):2163-8. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Photo-excited xanthone is known to undergo ultrafast intersystem crossing (ISC) in the 1 ps time domain. Correspondingly, its fluorescence quantum yield in most solvents is very small ( approximately 10(-4)). Surprisingly, the quantum yield in water is 100 times larger, while ISC is still rapid ( approximately 1 ps), as seen by ultrafast pump probe absorption spectroscopy. Temperature dependent steady state and time resolved fluorescence experiments point to a delayed fluorescence mechanism, where the triplet (3)npi* state primarily accessed by ISC is nearly isoenergetic with the photo-excited (1)pipi* state. The delayed fluorescence of xanthone in water decays with a time constant of 700 ps, apparently by internal conversion between the (3)npi* state and the lowest lying triplet state (3)pipi*.
    Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 09/2006; 8(29):3432-9. · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intersystem crossing of xanthone in protic solvents proceeds within 1 ps, whereas its fluorescence decays within 60-600 ps. This is due to a delayed fluorescence from a 3npi* state energetically close to the 1pipi* state.
    Ultrafast Phenomena XV. 07/2006;
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    ABSTRACT: The formation and quenching of the triplet state of xanthone are studied by femtosecond techniques. As revealed by femtosecond fluorescence spectroscopy, the primarily excited 1ππ* state decays within 1.5 ps. In a transient absorption experiment, this time constant is associated with a partial rise of a triplet signature. This rise has a second and slower component with a time constant of 12 ps. In the presence of high concentrations of the quencher 1-methylnaphthalene, the slow 12 ps rise component is absent. This finding gives strong evidence that the biphasic rise of the triplet absorption of xanthone is due to a sequential mechanism, namely, a 1ππ* → 3nπ* with fast intersystem crossing followed by a 3nπ* → 3ππ* internal conversion. Furthermore, an analysis of the concentration dependence of the quenching kinetics allows one to pin down the intrinsic transfer time of the triplet energy from xanthone to 1-methylnaphthalene to 1 ps.
    The Journal of Physical Chemistry A 10/2004; 108(46). · 2.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During protein folding a polypeptide chain has to form specific intrachain interactions starting from an ensemble of unfolded conformation. Thus, intrachain diffusion in unfolded polypeptide chains can be regarded as an elementary step in protein folding, which should determine the dynamics of the early stages in the folding process. We have previously applied exothermic triplet–triplet energy transfer from xanthone to naphthalene to determine rate constants for intrachain end-to-end contact formation in unstructured homo-polypeptide chains. Here we show that the method can be applied to determine absolute rate constants for intrachain diffusion in natural loop sequences, if they are free of methionine, tryptophan and tyrosine. We measured the rate of loop formation in an 18 amino acid polypeptide chain corresponding to a natural loop sequence from carp muscle β-parvalbumin (residues 85–102). Contact formation shows single exponential kinetics with a time constant (τ=1/k) of 53±3 ns at 22.5 °C in water. Comparison with the results on homo-polypeptide chains shows that this value agrees well with rates obtained earlier for a polyserine chain of the same length.
    Chemical Physics 01/2004; 307(2):209-215. · 1.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The rate of formation of intramolecular interactions in unfolded proteins determines how fast conformational space can be explored during folding. Characterization of the dynamics of unfolded proteins is therefore essential for the understanding of the earliest steps in protein folding. We used triplet-triplet energy transfer to measure formation of intrachain contacts in different unfolded polypeptide chains. The time constants (1/k) for contact formation over short distances are almost independent of chain length, with a maximum value of about 5 ns for flexible glycine-rich chains and of 12 ns for stiffer chains. The rates of contact formation over longer distances decrease with increasing chain length, indicating different rate-limiting steps for motions over short and long chain segments. The effect of the amino acid sequence on local chain dynamics was probed by using a series of host-guest peptides. Formation of local contacts is only sixfold slower around the stiffest amino acid (proline) compared to the most flexible amino acid (glycine). Good solvents for polypeptide chains like EtOH, GdmCl and urea were found to slow intrachain diffusion and to decrease chain stiffness. These data allow us to determine the time constants for formation of the earliest intrachain contacts during protein folding.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 10/2003; 332(1):265-74. · 3.91 Impact Factor