Exploring Intra- and Inter-Regional Interactions in the IDP α-Synuclein Using smFRET and MD Simulations

Gobert Heesink, Mirjam J. Marseille, Mohammad A.A. Fakhree, Mark D. Driver, Kirsten A. van Leijenhorst-Groener, Patrick R. Onck, Christian Blum*, Mireille M.A.E. Claessens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Theoretical concepts from polymer physics are often used to describe intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). However, amino acid interactions within and between regions of the protein can lead to deviations from typical polymer scaling behavior and even to short-lived secondary structures. To investigate the key interactions in the dynamic IDP α-synuclein (αS) at the amino acid level, we conducted single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) experiments and coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CG-MD) simulations. We find excellent agreement between experiments and simulations. Our results show that a physiological salt solution is a good solvent for αS and that the protein is highly dynamic throughout its entire chain, with local intra- and inter-regional interactions leading to deviations from global scaling. Specifically, we observe expansion in the C-terminal region, compaction in the NAC region, and a slightly smaller distance between the C- and N-termini than expected. Our simulations indicate that the compaction in the NAC region results from hydrophobic aliphatic contacts, mostly between valine and alanine residues, and cation−π interactions between lysine and tyrosine. In addition, hydrogen bonds also seem to contribute to the compaction of the NAC region. The expansion of the C-terminal region is due to intraregional electrostatic repulsion and increased chain stiffness from several prolines. Overall, our study demonstrates the effectiveness of combining smFRET experiments with CG-MD simulations to investigate the key interactions in highly dynamic IDPs at the amino acid level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3680-3688
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Early online date5 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2023


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