Dale RE, Hopkins SC, an der Heide UA, Marszalek T, Irving M, Goldman YE
Biophys J 1999 Mar;76(3):1606-18
The orientation of proteins in ordered biological samples can be investigated using steady-state polarized fluorescence from probes conjugated to the protein. A general limitation of this approach is that the probes typically exhibit rapid orientational motion ("wobble") with respect to the protein backbone. Here we present a method for characterizing the extent of this wobble and for removing its effects from the available information about the static orientational distribution of the probes. The analysis depends on four assumptions: 1) the probe wobble is fast compared with the nanosecond time scale of its excited-state decay; 2) the orientational distributions of the absorption and emission transition dipole moments are cylindrically symmetrical about a common axis c fixed in the protein; 3) protein motions are negligible during the excited-state decay; 4) the distribution of c is cylindrically symmetrical about the director of the experimental sample. In a muscle fiber, the director is the fiber axis, F. All of the information on the orientational order of the probe that is available from measurements of linearly polarized fluorescence is contained in five independent polarized fluorescence intensities measured with excitation and emission polarizers parallel or perpendicular to F and with the propagation axis of the detected fluorescence parallel or perpendicular to that of the excitation. The analysis then yields the average second-rank and fourth-rank order parameters (<P2> and <P4>) of the angular distribution of c relative to F, and <P2a> and <P2e>, the average second-rank order parameters of the angular distribution for wobble of the absorption and emission transition dipole moments relative to c. The method can also be applied to other cylindrically ordered systems such as oriented lipid bilayer membranes and to processes slower than fluorescence that may be observed using longer-lived optically excited states.