The Journal of chemical physics 147(15) 152708 doi 10.1063/1.4992800
Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are increasingly recognized as a class of molecules that can exert essential biological functions even in the absence of a well-defined three-dimensional structure. Understanding the conformational distributions and dynamics of these highly flexible proteins is thus essential for explaining the molecular mechanisms underlying their function. Single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy in combination with Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a powerful tool for probing intramolecular distances and the rapid long-range distance dynamics in IDPs. To complement the information from FRET, we combine it with photoinduced electron transfer (PET) quenching to monitor local loop-closure kinetics at the same time and in the same molecule. Here we employed this combination to investigate the intrinsically disordered N-terminal domain of HIV-1 integrase. The results show that both long-range dynamics and loop closure kinetics on the sub-microsecond time scale can be obtained reliably from a single set of measurements by the analysis with a comprehensive model of the underlying photon statistics including both FRET and PET. A more detailed molecular interpretation of the results is enabled by direct comparison with a recent extensive atomistic molecular dynamics simulation of integrase. The simulations are in good agreement with experiment and can explain the deviation from simple models of chain dynamics by the formation of persistent local secondary structure. The results illustrate the power of a close combination of single-molecule spectroscopy and simulations for advancing our understanding of the dynamics and detailed mechanisms in unfolded and intrinsically disordered proteins.