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Correlation of metal decoration and topochemistry on protein surfaces

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Weinkauf, S., Bacher, A., Baumeister, W., Ladenstein, R., Huber, R., & Bachmann, L. (1991). Correlation of metal decoration and topochemistry on protein surfaces. Journal of Molecular Biology., 221(2), 637-645.

On the surface of protein molecules the formation of metal clusters during vacuum condensation is controlled by topochemical features of the substrate and by specific properties of the decorating material. The resulting metal distribution (decoration pattern) can be mapped by electron microscopy in conjunction with image processing. We have applied this technique to freeze-etched crystals of the lumazine synthase-riboflavin synthase complex and its derivative obtained by binding of the heteropolytungstate (NaP5W30O110)(NH4)14.31 H2O. The decoration pattern of the free protein and its heteropolytungstate derivative showed marked differences. The correlation of these data with the X-ray structure of the protein showed an increased affinity of both gold and silver to the location of heteropolytungstate. Decoration sites can, but do not need to, be close to the protein surface. Actually, two of the observed decoration sites are located on a layer of ice as thick as 20 A, which apparently transmits underlying topochemical features. Preferential affinity of a site to a given metal must be seen as a property that depends on specific interaction with the decorating material but also on the differential affinities in adjacent areas.