Solid-state NMR-based approaches for supramolecular structure elucidation

Acc Chem Res. 2013 Sep 17;46(9):2037-46. doi: 10.1021/ar300316e. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Supramolecular chemistry provides structural and conformational information about complexes formed from multiple molecules. While the molecule is held together by strong intramolecular contacts like covalent bonds, supramolecular structures can be further stabilized by weaker or transient intermolecular interactions. These interactions can confer a great diversity and sensitivity to exogenous factors like temperature, pressure, or ionic strength to multimolecular arrangements. Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (ssNMR) can provide atomic-scale structural and dynamical information in highly disordered or heterogeneous biological systems, even in complex environments such as cellular membranes or whole cells. In these systems, the molecule of interest no longer exists as a separate unit, but it entangles with its surroundings in a dynamic interplay. Researchers have long accounted for the complexity of these intermolecular arrangements through a rather phenomenological description. But now the focus is shifting toward a detailed understanding of supramolecular structure at atomic resolution, constantly expanding our understanding of the stunning influence of the environment. In this Account, we discuss how ssNMR can help to dissect the remarkable interplay between intra- and intermolecular interactions. We describe biochemical and spectroscopic strategies that tailor ssNMR spectroscopic methods to the challenge of supramolecular structure investigation. In particular, we consider protein-protein interactions or the protein-membrane topology, and we review recent applications of these techniques. Furthermore, we summarize methods for integrating ssNMR information with other experimental techniques or computational methods, and we offer perspectives on how this overall information allows us to target increasingly large and intricate supramolecular structures of biomolecules. Advancements in ssNMR methodology and instrumentation, including the incorporation of signal enhancement methods such as dynamic nuclear polarization will further increase the potential of ssNMR spectroscopy, and together with additional developments in the field of NMR-hybrid strategies, ssNMR may become an ideal tool to study the heterogeneous, dynamic, and often transient nature of molecular interactions in complex biological systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Models, Biological*


  • Membrane Proteins