Dan Amir

Bar Ilan University, Gan, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Publications (25)72.06 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The nature of the earliest steps at the initiation of the folding pathway of globular proteins is still controversial. To elucidate the role of early closure of long loop structures in the folding transition, we studied the folding kinetics of sub-domain structures in E. coli adenylate kinase (AK) using FRET-based methods. The overall folding rate of AK molecule and of several segments which form native β strands is 0.5±0.3 s-1, in sharp contrast to 1,000 fold faster closure of three long loop structures in the CORE domain. A FRET based "double kinetics" analysis revealed complex transient changes of the initially closed N terminal loop structure which then opens and closes again at the end of the folding pathway. The study of sub-domain folding in situ suggests a hierarchic ordered folding mechanism, in which early and rapid crosslinking by hydrophobic loop closure provides structural stabilization at the initiation of the folding pathway.
    Biochemistry 05/2014; · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Detailed studies of the mechanisms of macromolecular conformational transitions such as protein folding are enhanced by analysis of changes of distributions for intramolecular distances during the transitions. Time-resolved Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements yield such data, but the more readily available kinetics of mean FRET efficiency changes cannot be analyzed in terms of changes in distances because of the sixth-power dependence on the mean distance. To enhance the information obtained from mean FRET efficiency kinetics, we combined the analyses of FRET efficiency kinetics and equilibrium trFRET experiments. The joint analysis enabled determination of transient distance distributions along the folding reaction both in cases where a two-state transition is valid and in some cases consisting of a three-state scenario. The procedure and its limits were tested by simulations. Experimental data obtained from stopped-flow measurements of the refolding of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase were analyzed. The distance distributions between three double-labeled mutants, in the collapsed transient state, were determined and compared to those obtained experimentally using the double-kinetics technique. The proposed method effectively provides information on distance distributions of kinetically accessed intermediates of fast conformational transitions induced by common relaxation methods.
    Biophysical Journal 02/2014; 106(3):667-76. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most proteins are nanomachines that are selected to execute specific functions and therefore should have some degree of flexibility. The driving force that excites specific motions of domains and smaller chain elements is the thermal fluctuations of the solvent bath which are channeled to selected modes of motions by the structural constraints. Consequently characterization of the ensembles of conformers of proteins and their dynamics should be expressed in statistical terms, i.e., determination of probability distributions of the various conformers. This can be achieved by measurements of time-resolved dynamic non-radiative excitation energy transfer (trFRET) within ensembles of site specifically labeled protein molecules. Distributions of intramolecular segmental end-to-end distances and their fast fluctuations can be determined, and fast and slow conformational transitions within selected sections of the molecule can be monitored and analyzed. Both ensemble and single-molecule detection methods can be applied for data collection. In combination with synchronization methods, time-resolved FRET was also used for studies of fast conformational transitions, in particular the folding/unfolding transitions.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2014; 1076:113-169. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Preparation of pure and homogenous site specifically single- and double-labelled biopolymers suitable for spectroscopic determination of structural characteristics is a major current challenge in biopolymers chemistry. In particular, proper analysis of single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer measurements is based on the spectral characteristics of the probes. Heterogeneity of any of the probes may introduce errors in the analysis, and hence, care must be taken to avoid preparation of inhomogeneous labelled biopolymer samples. When we prepared samples of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase (AK) mutants labelled with either Atto 488 or Atto 647N, the products were spectrally inhomogeneous and the composition of the mixture changed gradually over time. We show here that the inhomogeneity was not a result of variation in the dye interaction with neighbouring side chains. Rather, the slow drift of the spectral characteristics of the probes was a characteristic of an irreversible chemical transformation probably due to the hydrolysis of the succinimide ring of the attached dye into its succinamic acid form. Overnight incubation of the labelled protein in mild basic solution accelerated the interconversion, yielding homogeneous labelled samples. Using this procedure, we obtained stable homogenous AK mutant labelled at residues 142 and 188.
    Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 05/2013; · 3.66 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):369-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The rate of folding of globular proteins depends on specific local and nonlocal intramolecular interactions. What is the relative role of these two types of interaction at the initiation of refolding? We address this question by application of a "double kinetics" method based on fast initiation of refolding of site specifically labeled protein samples and detection of the transient distributions of selected intramolecular distances by means of fast measurements of time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer. We determined the distribution of the distance between the ends of a 44-chain segment that includes the AMP(bind) domain, by labeling residues 28 and 71, in Escherichia coli adenylate kinase (AK) and the distribution of the distance between residues 18 and 203, which depends on the overall order of the molecule. That distribution shows two-state transition to the native intramolecular distance at the same rate as that of the cooperative refolding transition of the AK molecule. In sharp contrast, the distance distribution between residues 28 and 71 is already native like at the end of the dead-time of the mixing device. This fast formation of native short distance between two widely separated chain sections can be either dependent on fast folding of the AMP(bind) domain or a result of a very effective nonlocal interaction between specific short clusters of hydrophobic residues. Further experiments on studying the kinetics of folding of selected structural elements in the protein will help determination of the driving force of this early folding event.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 08/2012; 423(4):613-23. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The information obtained by studying fluorescence decay of labeled biopolymers is a major resource for understanding the dynamics of their conformations and interactions. The lifetime of the excited states of probes attached to macromolecules is in the nanosecond time regime, and hence, a series of snapshot decay curves of such probes might - in principle - yield details of fast changes of ensembles of labeled molecules down to sub-microsecond time resolution. Hence, a major current challenge is the development of instruments for the low noise detection of fluorescence decay curves within the shortest possible time intervals. Here, we report the development of an instrument, picosecond double kinetics apparatus, that enables recording of multiple fluorescence decay curves with picosecond excitation pulses over wide spectral range during microsecond data collection for each curve. The design is based on recording and averaging multiphoton pulses of fluorescence decay using a fast 13 GHz oscilloscope during microsecond time intervals at selected time points over the course of a chemical reaction or conformational transition. We tested this instrument in a double kinetics experiment using reference probes (N-acetyl-tryptophanamide). Very low stochastic noise level was attained, and reliable multi-parameter analysis such as derivation of distance distributions from time resolved FRET (fluorescence resonance excitation energy transfer) measurements was achieved. The advantage of the pulse recording and averaging approach used here relative to double kinetics methods based on the established time correlated single photon counting method, is that in the pulse recording approach, averaging of substantially fewer kinetic experiments is sufficient for obtaining the data. This results in a major reduction in the consumption of labeled samples, which in many cases, enables the performance of important experiments that were not previously feasible.
    The Review of scientific instruments 08/2012; 83(8):084301. · 1.52 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):57-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The effect of an inert small molecule osmolyte, trimethyl amine N-oxide (TMAO), upon the conformational equilibria of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase was studied using time-resolved FRET. The relative populations of open and closed clefts between the LID and the CORE domains were measured as functions of the concentrations of the substrate ATP over the concentration range 0-18 mM and TMAO over the concentration range 0-4 M. A model was constructed according to which the enzyme exists in equilibrium among four conformational states, corresponding to combinations of open and closed conformations of the LID-CORE and AMP-CORE clefts. ATP is assumed to bind only to those conformations with the closed LID-CORE cleft, and TMAO is assumed to be differentially excluded as a hard spherical particle from each of the four conformations in accordance with calculations based upon x-ray crystallographic structures. This model was found to describe quantitatively the dependence of the fraction of the closed LID-CORE cleft upon the concentrations of both ATP and TMAO over the entire range of concentrations with just five undetermined parameters.
    Biophysical Journal 06/2011; 100(12):2991-9. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cooperative protein folding invokes discrete folded and unfolded ensembles separated by a free-energy barrier. In contrast, downhill folding involves just one ensemble of protein molecules within a single free-energy well. Common method of monitoring the folding transition which yield mean values cannot resolve the two mechanisms. Time-resolved dynamic resonance nonradiative excitation energy transfer (trFRET), which can yield distributions of conformers in ensembles of partially folded protein molecules was applied. E. Coli adenylate kinase (AK) was used as a model in a study of the unfolding/refolding transition. Several mutants were prepared which enabled monitoring the folding transition at different parts of the molecule. The analysis of trFRET monitored chemically induced unfolding/refolding transition yielded a clear evidence for the presence of two distinct sub-populations at the transition zone. One sub-population was native like and the other was unfolded. The proportion of the size of the two sub-populations was varied as function of the concentration of the denaturant. These experiments yielded solid evidence in support the model of cooperative, barrier crossing, mechanism of folding this protein. At least for this case, the model of downhill mechanism of folding is not applicable.
    Biophysical Society 53rd Annual Meeting; 03/2009
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    ABSTRACT: The B domain of protein A (BDPA), a three-helix bundle of 60 residues, folds via a nucleation-condensation mechanism in apparent two-state kinetics. We have applied a time-resolved FRET (tr-FRET) approach to characterize the ensembles of BDPA during chemical denaturation. The distribution of the distance between residues 22 and 55, which are close and separated by helices 2 and 3 in the native state, was determined by global analysis of the time-resolved fluorescence decay curves of the probes. Narrow distributions were observed when the protein was equilibrated in guanidinium chloride (GdmCl) concentrations below 1.5 M (native state, N) and above the transition zone at 2.6-3.0 M GdmCl (denatured state, D). Considerably broader distributions were found around the transition point (2.0 M GdmCl) or much higher GdmCl concentrations (>3.0 M). Comparative global analysis of the tr-FRET data showed a compact denatured state of the protein, characterized by narrow distribution and relatively small mean distance between residues 22 and 55 that was observed at mild denaturing conditions (<3 M GdmCl). This experiment supports the two-state folding mechanism of BDPA and indicates the existence of effective nonlocal, probably hydrophobic, intramolecular interactions that stabilize a pretty uniform ensemble of compact denatured molecules at intermediate denaturing conditions.
    Biochemistry 02/2009; 48(15):3468-76. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most globular protein chains, when transferred from high to low denaturant concentrations, collapse instantly before they refold to their native state. The initial compaction of the protein molecule is assumed to have a key effect on the folding pathway, but it is not known whether the earliest structures formed during or instantly after collapse are defined by local or by non-local interactions--that is, by secondary structural elements or by loop closure of long segments of the protein chain. Stable closure of one or several long loops can reduce the chain entropy at a very early stage and can prevent the protein from following non-productive pathways whose number grows exponentially with the length of the protein chain. In Escherichia coli adenylate kinase (AK), about seven long loops define the topology of the native structure. We selected four loop-forming sections of the chain and probed the time course of loop formation during refolding of AK. We labeled the termini of the loop segments with tryptophan and cysteine-5-amidosalicylic acid. This donor-acceptor pair of probes used with fluorescence resonance excitation energy transfer spectroscopy (FRET) is suitable for detecting very short distances and thus is able to distinguish between random and specific compactions. Refolding of AK was initiated by stopped-flow mixing, followed simultaneously by donor and acceptor fluorescence, and analyzed in terms of energy transfer efficiency and distance. In the collapsed state of AK, observed after the 5-ms dead time of the instrument, one of the selected segments shows a native-like separation of its termini; it forms a loop already in the collapsed state. A second segment that includes the first but is longer by 15 residues shows an almost native-like separation of its termini. In contrast, a segment that is shorter but part of the second segment shows a distance separation of its termini as high as a segment that spans almost the whole protein chain. We conclude that a specific network of non-local interactions, the closure of one or several loops, can play an important role in determining the protein folding pathway at its early phases.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 12/2008; 385(4):1230-42. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a sensitive analytical tool that allows dynamics and hydrodynamics of biomolecules to be studied under a broad range of experimental conditions. One application of FCS of current interest is the determination of the size of protein molecules in the various states they sample along their folding reaction coordinate, which can be accessed through the measurement of diffusion coefficients. It has been pointed out that the analysis of FCS curves is prone to artifacts that may lead to erroneous size determination. To set the stage for FCS studies of unfolded proteins, we first show that the diffusion coefficients of small molecules as well as proteins can be determined accurately even in the presence of high concentrations of co-solutes that change the solution refractive index significantly. Indeed, it is found that the Stokes-Einstein relation between the measured diffusion coefficient and solution viscosity holds even in highly concentrated glycerol or guanidinium hydrochloride (GuHCl) solutions. These measurements form the basis for an investigation of the structure of the denatured state of two proteins, the small protein L and the larger, three-domain protein adenylate kinase (AK). FCS is found useful for probing expansion in the denatured state beyond the unfolding transition. It is shown that the denatured state of protein L expands as the denaturant concentration increases, in a process akin to the transition from a globule to a coil in polymers. This process continues at least up to 5 M GuHCl. On the other hand, the denatured state of AK does not seem to expand much beyond 2 M GuHCl, a result that is in qualitative accord with single-molecule fluorescence histograms. Because both the unfolding transition and the coil-globule transition of AK occur at a much lower denaturant concentration than those of protein L, a possible correlation between the two phenomena is suggested.
    Biophysical Journal 07/2008; 94(12):4819-27. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A variety of biophysical methods used to study proteins requires protein modification using conjugated molecular probes. Cysteine is the main residue that can be modified without the risk of altering other residues in the protein chain. It is possible to label several cysteines in a protein using highly selective labeling reactions, if the cysteines react at very different rates. The reactivity of a cysteine residue introduced into an exposed surface site depends on the fraction of cysteine in the deprotonated state. Here, it is shown that cysteine reactivity differences can be effectively predicted by an electrostatic model that yields site-specifically the fractions of cysteinate. The model accounts for electrostatic interactions between the cysteinyl anion and side chains, the local protein backbone, and water. The energies of interaction with side chains and the main chain are calculated by using the two different dielectric constants, 40 and 22, respectively. Twenty-six mutants of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase were produced, each containing a single cysteine at the protein surface, and the rates of the reaction with 5,5'-dithiobis(2-nitrobenzoic acid) (Ellman's reagent) were measured. Cysteine residues were chosen on the basis of locations that were expected to allow modification of the protein with minimal risk of perturbing its structure. The reaction rates spanned a range of 6 orders of magnitude. The correlation between predicted fractions of cysteinate and measured reaction rates was strong (R = 92%) and especially high (R = 97%) for cysteines at the helix termini. The approach developed here allows reasonably fast, automated screening of protein surfaces to identify sites that permit efficient preparations of double- or triple-labeled protein.
    Biochemistry 11/2005; 44(42):13664-72. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The various models proposed for protein folding transition differ in their order of appearance of the basic steps during this process. In this study, steady state and time-resolved dynamic non-radiative excitation energy transfer (FRET and trFRET) combined with site specific labeling experiments were applied in order to characterize the initial transient ensemble of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase (AK) molecules upon shifting conditions from those favoring denaturation to refolding and from folding to denaturing. Three sets of labeled AK mutants were prepared, which were designed to probe the equilibrium and transient distributions of intramolecular segmental end-to-end distances. A 176 residue section (residues 28-203), which spans most of the 214 residue molecule, and two short secondary structure chain segments including an alpha-helix (residues 169-188) and a predominantly beta-strand region (residues 188-203), were labeled. Upon fast change of conditions from denaturing to folding, the end-to-end distance of the 176 residue chain section showed an immediate collapse to a mean value of 26 A. Under the same conditions, the two short secondary structure elements did not respond to this shift within the first ten milliseconds, and retained the characteristics of a fully unfolded state. Within the first 10 ms after changes of the solvent from folding to denaturing, only minor changes were observed at the local environments of residues 203 and 169. The response of these same local environments to the shift of conditions from denaturing to folding occurred within the dead time of the mixing device. Thus, the response of the CORE domain of AK to fast transfer from folding to unfolding conditions is slow at all three conformational levels that were probed, and for at least a few milliseconds the ensemble of folded molecules is maintained under unfolding conditions. A different order of the changes was observed upon initiation of refolding. The AK molecules undergo fast collapse to an ensemble of compact structures where the local environment of surface probes seems to be native-like but the two labeled secondary structure elements remain unfolded.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 10/2005; 352(3):683-99. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Experimental investigation of protein structure and dynamics by spectroscopic methods using external probes requires attachment of a probe to a well-defined site and preparation of pure samples. Measurements of efficiency of nonradiative excitation energy transfer can yield very detailed information about the structure of proteins, provided that two different probes are selectively attached to well-defined sites. We have used specific protection of ε-amino groups using tert-butylazidoformate at high pH for covalent attachment of the fluorescent probe 2-naphthoxyacetic acid at the α-amino group of bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI). The product is a chromatoraphically homogenous protein derivative that contains the probe at a dye to protein ratio of 1:1, specifically located at the N-terminus, and and that retains its full biological activity. The HPLC tryptic peptide map of BPTI has been analyzed, and all the peptide fragments have been identified. Analysis of tryptic fragments of the labled BPTI derivative showed that it was selectively labeled at the N-terminal amino acid. The probe absorbs in the 310–325-nm range, which is spectrally distinct from the absorption of the protein, and has a monoexponetial fluorescence decay. These and other charactristics make this probe a good energy donor in transfer-efficiency measurements.
    Biopolymers 01/2004; 24(4):623 - 638. · 2.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The native structures of many globular proteins are only weakly stabilized and form in solution ensembles of multiple conformers. The energy differences between the conformers are assumed to be small. This is the case of flexible multidomain proteins where domain motions were observed. High concentrations of inert macrosolute, which create a crowded or confined environment, can cause shifts of the distribution of the conformers of such proteins towards the more compact structures. This effect may also promote compact structures in partially folded proteins. Time-resolved dynamic non-radiative excitation energy transfer (tr-RET) is suitable for detection of either subtle or major changes in distributions of intramolecular distances in protein molecules in solutions. Two experiments were performed which demonstrated the applicability of tr-RET for detection of the effect of macrosolutes on the conformational ensembles of flexible states of protein molecules. The distribution of distances between residues 203 and 169 in the CORE domain of E. coli adenylate kinase (AK) in the denatured state was determined in the presence of high concentrations of dextran 40. A significant shift of the mean of the distribution was observed without reduction of its width. This was interpreted as a shift to compact structure without change of the degree of disorder of the chain. In a second experiment the distribution of the distance between residues 55 and 169 in AK, which spans the cleft between the CORE and the AMPbind domains, was monitored. No clear effect of high concentrations of dextran 40 was found. These experiments show the strength of the application of tr-RET in investigation of changes in the sub-states of flexible conformations of globular protein. Networks of pairs of labeled sites can be prepared and tr-RET experiments can be performed in order to search for the segments of the protein molecules, which respond to the presence of inert macromolecules in their environment.
    Journal of Molecular Recognition 01/2004; 17(5):448-55. · 3.01 Impact Factor
  • D Amir, S Krausz, E Haas
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    ABSTRACT: The structure of BPTI and reduced BPTI in concentrated guanidinium HCl (GUHCl) in the presence of glycerol has been probed by measurements of dynamic nonradiative excitation energy transfer between probes attached to its amino groups. Interprobe distance distributions were obtained from analysis of donor fluorescence decay curves and used to characterize local structures in unordered states of the protein. Site specifically fluorescently labeled BPTI derivatives (1-n)BPTI (n = 15, 20, 41, 46) were used, each carrying a 2-methoxy-naphthyl-1-methylenyl group (MNA) at the N-terminal amino group of arg1 and 7-(dimethylamino)-coumarin-4-yl-acetyl residue (DA-coum) at one of its epsilon-NH2 groups of the lysine side chains. Analysis of donor fluorescence decay kinetics gave the interprobe distance distributions in the native and denatured states. The N-terminal-segment, residues 1-15, is in an extended conformation (with an average interprobe distance of 34 +/- 2 A) in the native state. Upon unfolding by reduction with DTT or beta-mercapto ethanol in 6 M GUHCl/glycerol mixture, the conformation of this segment relaxed to a state characterized by a reduced average interprobe distance and a larger width of the distances distribution. The average distance between residues 1 and 26, i.e., between the N-terminus and the turn of the twisted beta sheet element (residues 18-35), increased upon unfolding. At -30 degrees C in the above solvent, the distribution between these two sites was probably composed of two conformational subpopulations. About 45 +/- 20% of the molecules were characterized by a short interprobe distance (like the native state) representing a compact conformation, and 55 +/- 20% of the molecules showed large interprobe distances representing an expanded (unfolded) conformation. Thus local structures seem to exist in reduced denatured BPTI even under denaturing conditions in 6 M GUHCl/glycerol mixtures. Some of those structures are unstable in guanidinium isothiocyanate (GUSCN). The method introduced here is suitable for probing local structures and very long range interactions in unfolded proteins and for search for folding initiation sites (FISs) and early folding intermediates.
    Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 05/1992; 13(2):162-73. · 3.34 Impact Factor
  • D Amir, E Haas
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    ABSTRACT: The conformation of reduced bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (R-BPTI) under reducing conditions was monitored by measurements of nonradiative excitation energy-transfer efficiencies (E) between a donor probe attached to the N-terminal Arg1 residue and an acceptor attached to one of the lysine residues (15, 26, 41, or 46) [Amir, D., & Haas, E. (1987) Biochemistry 26, 2162-2175]. High-excitation energy-transfer efficiencies that approach those found in the native state were obtained for the reduced labeled BPTI derivatives in 0.5 M guanidine hydrochloride (Gdn.HCl) and 4 mM DTT. Unlike the dependence expected for a random coil chain, E does not decrease as a function of the number of residues between the labeled sites. The efficiency of energy transfer between probes attached to residues 1 and 15 in the reduced state is higher than that found for the same pair of sites in the native state or reduced unfolded (in 6 M Gdn.HCl) state. This segment also shows high dynamic flexibility. These results indicate that the overall structure of reduced BPTI under folding (but still reducing) conditions shows a high population of conformers with interprobe distances similar to those of the native state. Reduced BPTI seems to be in a molten globule state characterized by a flexible, compact structure, which probably reorganizes into the native structure when the folding is allowed to proceed under oxidizing conditions.
    Biochemistry 01/1989; 27(25):8889-93. · 3.38 Impact Factor