Single-Molecule Observation of Ligand Binding and Conformational Changes in FeuA

Biophys J. 2019 Nov 5;117(9):1642-1654. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.08.005. Epub 2019 Aug 12.


The specific binding of ligands by proteins and the coupling of this process to conformational changes is fundamental to protein function. We designed a fluorescence-based single-molecule assay and data analysis procedure that allows the simultaneous real-time observation of ligand binding and conformational changes in FeuA. The substrate-binding protein FeuA binds the ligand ferri-bacillibactin and delivers it to the ATP-binding cassette importer FeuBC, which is involved in bacterial iron uptake. The conformational dynamics of FeuA was assessed via Förster resonance energy transfer, whereas the presence of the ligand was probed by fluorophore quenching. We reveal that ligand binding shifts the conformational equilibrium of FeuA from an open to a closed conformation. Ligand binding occurs via an induced-fit mechanism, i.e., the ligand binds to the open state and subsequently triggers a rapid closing of the protein. However, FeuA also rarely samples the closed conformation without the involvement of the ligand. This shows that ligand interactions are not required for conformational changes in FeuA. However, ligand interactions accelerate the conformational change 10,000-fold and temporally stabilize the formed conformation 250-fold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Ligands
  • Protein Conformation
  • Single Molecule Imaging*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Thermodynamics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ligands