Human ileal bile acid binding protein (I-BABP), a member of the family of intracellular lipid binding proteins, is thought to play a role in the enterohepatic circulation of bile salts. Previously, we have shown by stopped-flow fluorescence analysis that positive binding cooperativity exhibited by I-BABP in its interactions with glycocholate (GCA) and glycochenodeoxycholate (GCDA), the two primary bile salts in humans, is related to a slow conformational change in the protein. In this study, we used backbone 15N relaxation nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to obtain residue-specific information about the internal dynamics of apo I-BABP and the doubly ligated I-BABP:GCA:GCDA complex on various time scales. According to our NMR data, bile salt binding is accompanied by a slight rigidification of the 15N-1H bond vectors on the picosecond to nanosecond time scale, with most pronounced changes occurring in the C-D region. In contrast to the minor effects of ligation on fast motions, relaxation dispersion NMR experiments indicate a marked difference between the two protein states on the microsecond to millisecond time scale. In the apo form, an extensive network of conformational fluctuations is detected throughout segments of the EFGHIJ β-strands and the C-D loop, which cease upon complexation. Our NMR data are in agreement with a conformational selection model we proposed earlier for I-BABP and support the hypothesis of an allosteric mechanism of ligand binding. According to the NMR measurements, the helical cap region may have a less crucial role in mediating ligand entry and release than what has been indicated for fatty acid binding proteins.
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