Site-directed thiol cross-linking indicates that the first periplasmic loop (loop I/II) in the lactose permease of Escherichia coli is in close proximity to loops VII/VIII and XI/XII [Sun, J., and Kaback, H. R. (1997) Biochemistry 36, 11959-11965]. To determine whether thiol cross-linking reflects proximity as opposed to differences in the reactivity and/or dynamics of the Cys residues that undergo cross-linking, single-Cys mutants in loops I/II, VII/VIII, and XI/XII and double-Cys mutants in loop I/II and VII/VIII or XI/XII were purified and labeled with a sulfhydryl-specific nitroxide spin label. The labeled mutants were then analyzed by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, and interspin distance was estimated from the extent of line shape broadening in the double-labeled proteins. Out of six paired double-Cys mutants that exhibit thiol cross- linking, five display significant spin-spin interaction. Furthermore, there is a qualitative correlation between distances estimated by site-directed cross-linking and EPR. Taken as a whole, the results are consistent with the conclusion that site-directed thiol cross-linking is primarily a reflection of proximity.
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