Site-directed spin labeling (SDSL), the site-specific incorporation of nitroxide spin-labels into a protein, has allowed us to investigate ligand-induced conformational changes in the ligand-binding domain of human estrogen receptor α (hERα-LBD). EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) spectroscopy of the nitroxide probe attached to ER produces different spectra depending upon the identity of the bound ligand; these differences are indicative of changes in the type and degree of motional character of the spin-label induced by different ligand-induced conformations of labeled ER. Visual inspection of EPR spectra, construction of B versus C cross-correlation plots, and cross-comparison of spectral pairs using a relative squared difference (RSD) calculation allowed receptor-ligand complexes to be profiled according to their conformational character. Plotting B and C parameters allowed us to evaluate the liganded receptor according to the motional characteristics of the attached spin-label, and they were particularly illustrative for the receptor labeled at position 530, which had motion between the fast and intermediate regimes. RSD analysis allowed us to directly compare the similarity or difference between two different spectra, and these comparisons produced groupings that paralleled those seen in B versus C cross-correlation plots, again relating meaningfully with the pharmacological nature of the bound ligand. RSD analysis was also particularly useful for qualifying differences seen with the receptor labeled at position 417, which had motion between the intermediate and slow motional regimes. This work demonstrates that B and C formulas from EPR line shape theory are useful for qualitative analysis of spectra with differences subtler than those that are often analyzed by EPR spectroscopists. This work also provides evidence that the ER can exist in a range of conformations, with specific conformations resulting from preferential stabilization of ER by the bound ligand. Furthermore, it documents the complexity and uniqueness of the ligand-receptor structure, and highlights the fact that structural differences exist between the receptor bound with ligands of different pharmacological character that, nevertheless, produce similar crystal structures.
ASJC Scopus subject areas