Protein and RNA dynamical fingerprinting

Nat Commun. 2019 Mar 4;10(1):1026. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08926-3.


Protein structural vibrations impact biology by steering the structure to functional intermediate states; enhancing tunneling events; and optimizing energy transfer. Strong water absorption and a broad continuous vibrational density of states have prevented optical identification of these vibrations. Recently spectroscopic signatures that change with functional state were measured using anisotropic terahertz microscopy. The technique however has complex sample positioning requirements and long measurement times, limiting access for the biomolecular community. Here we demonstrate that a simplified system increases spectroscopic structure to dynamically fingerprint biomacromolecules with a factor of 6 reduction in data acquisition time. Using this technique, polarization varying anisotropy terahertz microscopy, we show sensitivity to inhibitor binding and unique vibrational spectra for several proteins and an RNA G-quadruplex. The technique's sensitivity to anisotropic absorbance and birefringence provides rapid assessment of macromolecular dynamics that impact biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Energy Transfer
  • G-Quadruplexes*
  • Macromolecular Substances / chemistry
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nucleotide Mapping / instrumentation
  • Nucleotide Mapping / methods*
  • Peptide Mapping / instrumentation
  • Peptide Mapping / methods*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Terahertz Imaging / instrumentation
  • Terahertz Imaging / methods
  • Vibration
  • Water / chemistry


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Proteins
  • Water
  • RNA