Maly, T., et al., 1H Dynamic Nuclear Polarization Based on an Endogenous Radical. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 2012.
We demonstrate a 15-fold enhancement of solid-state NMR signals via dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) based on a stable, naturally occurring radical in a protein: the flavin mononucleotide (FMN) semiquinone of flavodoxin. The linewidth of flavodoxin's EPR signal suggests that the dominant DNP mechanism is the solid effect, consistent with the field-dependent DNP enhancement profile. The magnitude of the enhancement as well as the bulk-polarization build-up time constant (tau<sub>B</sub>) with which it develops are dependent on the isotopic composition of the protein. Deuteration of the protein to 85 % increased the nuclear longitudinal relaxation time T<sub>1n</sub> and tau<sub>B</sub> by factors of five and seven, respectively. Slowed dissipation of polarization can explain the two-fold higher maximal enhancement than that obtained in proteated protein, based on the endogenous semiquinone. In contrast, the long tau_B of TOTAPOL-based DNP in non-glassy samples was not accompanied by a similarly important long T1n, and in this case the enhancement was greatly reduced. The low concentrations of radicals occurring naturally in biological systems limit the magnitude of DNP enhancement that is attainable by this means. However, our enhancement factors of up to 15 can nonetheless make an important difference to the feasibility of applying solid-state NMR to biochemical systems. We speculate that DNP based on endogenous radicals may facilitate MAS NMR characterization of biochemical complexes and even organelles, and could also serve as a source of additional structural and physiological information.