Characterization of a conformationally sensitive TOAC spin-labeled substance P

Aaron M. Shafer, Clovis R. Nakaie, Xavier Deupi, Vicki J. Bennett, John C Voss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


To probe the binding of a peptide agonist to a G-protein coupled receptor in native membranes, the spin-labeled amino acid analogue 4-amino-4-carboxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidino-1-oxyl (TOAC) was substituted at either position 4 or 9 within the substance P peptide (RPKPQQFFGLM-NH2), a potent agonist of the neurokinin-1 receptor. The affinity of the 4-TOAC analog is comparable to the native peptide while the affinity of the 9-TOAC derivative is ∼250-fold lower. Both peptides activate receptor signaling, though the potency of the 9-TOAC peptide is substantially lower. The utility of these modified ligands for reporting conformational dynamics during the neurokinin-1 receptor activation was explored using EPR spectroscopy, which can determine the real-time dynamics of the TOAC nitroxides in solution. While the binding of both the 4-TOAC substance P and 9-TOAC substance P peptides to isolated cell membranes containing the neurokinin-1 receptor is detected, a bound signal for the 9-TOAC peptide is only obtained under conditions that maintain the receptor in its high-affinity binding state. In contrast, 4-TOAC substance P binding is observed by solution EPR under both low- and high-affinity receptor states, with evidence of a more strongly immobilized peptide in the presence of GDP. In addition, to better understand the conformational consequences of TOAC substitution into substance P as it relates to receptor binding and activation, atomistic models for both the 4- and 9-TOAC versions of the peptide were constructed, and the molecular dynamics calculated via simulated annealing to explore the influence of the TOAC substitutions on backbone structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1919-1929
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • EPR
  • ESR
  • GPCR
  • Substance P
  • TOAC spin label

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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