Proteins are dynamic, fluctuating between multiple conformational states. Protein dynamics, spanning orders of magnitude in time and space, allow proteins to perform specific functions. Moreover, under certain conditions, proteins can morph into a different set of conformations. Thus, a complete understanding of protein structural dynamics can provide mechanistic insights into protein function. Here, we review the latest developments in methods used to determine protein ensemble structures and to characterize protein dynamics. Techniques including X-ray crystallography, cryogenic electron microscopy, and small angle scattering can provide structural information on specific conformational states or on the averaged shape of the protein, whereas techniques including nuclear magnetic resonance, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry provide information on the fluctuation of the distances between protein domains, residues, and atoms for the multiple conformational states of the protein. In particular, FRET measurements at the single-molecule level allow rapid resolution of protein conformational states, where information is otherwise obscured in bulk measurements. Taken together, the different techniques complement each other and their integrated use can offer a clear picture of protein structure and dynamics.
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1.Hubei Key Laboratory of Natural Medicinal Chemistry and Resource Evaluation, School of Pharmacy, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
2.CAS Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems, State Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance and Atomic Molecular Physics, National Center for Magnetic Resonance at WuhanWuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina