Mapping the Structure and Conformational Movements of Proteins with Transition Metal Ion Fret
Visualizing conformational dynamics in proteins has been difficult, and the atomic-scale motions responsible for the behavior of most allosteric proteins are unknown. Here we report that fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between a small fluorescent dye and a nickel ion bound to a dihistidine motif can be used to monitor small structural rearrangements in proteins. This method provides several key advantages over classical FRET, including the ability to measure the dynamics of close-range interactions, the use of small probes with short linkers, a low orientation dependence, and the ability to add and remove unique tunable acceptors. We used this 'transition metal ion FRET' approach along with X-ray crystallography to determine the structural changes of the gating ring of the mouse hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-regulated ion channel HCN2. Our results suggest a general model for the conformational switch in the cyclic nucleotide-binding site of cyclic nucleotide-regulated ion channels.