van der Heide UA, Hopkins SC, Goldman YE
Biophys J 2000 Apr;78(4):2138-50
Techniques have recently become available to label protein subunits with fluorescent probes at predetermined orientation relative to the protein coordinates. The known local orientation enables quantitative interpretation of fluorescence polarization experiments in terms of orientation and motions of the protein within a larger macromolecular assembly. Combining data obtained from probes placed at several distinct orientations relative to the protein structure reveals functionally relevant information about the axial and azimuthal orientation of the labeled protein segment relative to its surroundings. Here we present an analytical method to determine the protein orientational distribution from such data. The method produces the broadest distribution compatible with the data by maximizing its informational entropy. The key advantages of this approach are that no a priori assumptions are required about the shape of the distribution and that a unique, exact fit to the data is obtained. The relative orientations of the probes used for the experiments have great influence on information content of the maximum entropy distribution. Therefore, the choice of probe orientations is crucial. In particular, the probes must access independent aspects of the protein orientation, and two-fold rotational symmetries must be avoided. For a set of probes, a "figure of merit" is proposed, based on the independence among the probe orientations. With simulated fluorescence polarization data, we tested the capacity of maximum entropy analysis to recover specific protein orientational distributions and found that it is capable of recovering orientational distributions with one and two peaks. The similarity between the maximum entropy distribution and the test distribution improves gradually as the number of independent probe orientations increases. As a practical example, ME distributions were determined with experimental data from muscle fibers labeled with bifunctional rhodamine at known orientations with respect to the myosin regulatory light chain (RLC). These distributions show a complex relationship between the axial orientation of the RLC relative to the fiber axis and the azimuthal orientation of the RLC about its own axis. Maximum entropy analysis reveals limitations in available experimental data and supports the design of further probe angles to resolve details of the orientational distribution.