A recurrent theme of many structural studies of homo-oligomeric protein systems is concerned with verification that the conformation observed in a crystal represents the functionally relevant structure. An asymmetric conformation adopted by two chemically identical subunits in homo-oligomers can represent an intrinsic property of a protein or be an artifact induced by crystal packing forces. Solution NMR studies can distinguish between these two possibilities. Using methyl-based NMR spectroscopy, we provide evidence for symmetry in the absence of ligands in several homodimeric proteins that are either asymmetric functionally and/or adopt different conformations of the two subunits in available X-ray structures.
© 2011 American Chemical Society