Influence of histidine tag attachment on picosecond protein dynamics

Biochemistry. 2011 Jun 28;50(25):5799-805. doi: 10.1021/bi2003923. Epub 2011 Jun 6.


Polyhistidine affinity tags are routinely employed as a convenient means of purifying recombinantly expressed proteins. A tacit assumption is commonly made that His tags have little influence on protein structure and function. Attachment of a His tag to the N-terminus of the robust globular protein myoglobin leads to only minor changes to the electrostatic environment of the heme pocket, as evinced by the nearly unchanged Fourier transform infrared spectrum of CO bound to the heme of His-tagged myoglobin. Experiments employing two-dimensional infrared vibrational echo spectroscopy of the heme-bound CO, however, find that significant changes occur to the short time scale (picoseconds) dynamics of myoglobin as a result of His tag incorporation. The His tag mainly reduces the dynamics on the 1.4 ps time scale and also alters protein motions of myoglobin on the slower, >100 ps time scale, as demonstrated by the His tag's influence on the fluctuations of the CO vibrational frequency, which reports on protein structural dynamics. The results suggest that affinity tags may have effects on protein function and indicate that investigators of affinity-tagged proteins should take this into consideration when investigating the dynamics and other properties of such proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Carbon Monoxide / chemistry
  • Histidine / biosynthesis
  • Histidine / chemistry*
  • Histidine / genetics
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myoglobin / chemistry*
  • Protein Binding
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Sperm Whale
  • Static Electricity
  • Time Factors


  • Myoglobin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • polyhistidine
  • Histidine
  • Carbon Monoxide