Circular Dichroïsm Spectroscopy

First pioneered by Jean-Baptiste Biot, Augustin Fresnel, and Aimé Cotton, circular dichroism (CD) refers to the differential absorption of left and right circularly polarized light.. This phenomenon is exhibited in the absorption bands of optically active chiral molecules. CD spectroscopy has a wide range of applications in many different fields. Most notably, UV CD is used to investigate the secondary structure of proteins. UV/Vis CD is used to investigate charge-transfer transitions. Near-infrared CD is used to investigate geometric and electronic structure by probing metal d→d transitions. Vibrational circular dichroism, which uses light from the infrared energy region, is used for structural studies of small organic molecules, and most recently proteins and DNA.
Application to biological molecules
In general, this phenomenon will be exhibited in absorption bands of any optically active molecule. As a consequence, circular dichroism is exhibited by biological molecules, because of their dextrorotary andlevorotary components. Even more important is that a secondary structure will also impart a distinct CD to its respective molecules. Therefore, the alpha helix of proteins and the double helix of nucleic acidshave CD spectral signatures representative of their structures. The capacity of CD to give a representative structural signature makes it a powerful tool in modern biochemistry with applications that can be found in virtually every field of study.
CD is closely related to the optical rotatory dispersion (ORD) technique, and is generally considered to be more advanced. CD is measured in or near the absorption bands of the molecule of interest, while ORD can be measured far from these bands. CD's advantage is apparent in the data analysis. Structural elements are more clearly distinguished since their recorded bands do not overlap extensively at particular wavelengths as they do in ORD. In principle these two spectral measurements can be interconverted through an integral transform (Kramers-Kronig relation), if all the absorptions are included in the measurements.

The far-UV (ultraviolet) CD spectrum of proteins can reveal important characteristics of their secondary structure. CD spectra can be readily used to estimate the fraction of a molecule that is in the alpha-helixconformation, the beta-sheet conformation, the beta-turn conformation, or some other (e.g. random coil) conformation. These fractional assignments place important constraints on the possible secondary conformations that the protein can be in. CD cannot, in general, say where the alpha helices that are detected are located within the molecule or even completely predict how many there are. Despite this, CD is a valuable tool, especially for showing changes in conformation. It can, for instance, be used to study how the secondary structure of a molecule changes as a function of temperature or of the concentration of denaturing agents, e.g. Guanidinium hydrochloride or urea. In this way it can reveal important thermodynamic information about the molecule (such as the enthalpy and Gibbs free energyof denaturation) that cannot otherwise be easily obtained. Anyone attempting to study a protein will find CD a valuable tool for verifying that the protein is in its native conformation before undertaking extensive and/or expensive experiments with it. Also, there are a number of other uses for CD spectroscopy in protein chemistry not related to alpha-helix fraction estimation.

The near-UV CD spectrum (>250 nm) of proteins provides information on the tertiary structure. The signals obtained in the 250-300 nm region are due to the absorption, dipole orientation and the nature of the surrounding environment of the phenylalanine, tyrosine, cysteine (or S-S disulfide bridges) and tryptophan amino acids. Unlike in far-UV CD, the near-UV CD spectrum cannot be assigned to any particular 3D structure. Rather, near-UV CD spectra provide structural information on the nature of the prosthetic groups in proteins, e.g., the heme groups in hemoglobin and cytochrome c.
Visible CD spectroscopy is a very powerful technique to study metal-protein interactions and can resolve individual d-d electronic transitions as separate bands. CD spectra in the visible light region are only produced when a metal ion is in a chiral environment, thus, free metal ions in solution are not detected. This has the advantage of only observing the protein-bound metal, so pH dependence and stoichiometries are readily obtained. Optical activity in transition metal ion complexes have been attributed to configurational, conformational and the vicinal effects. Klewpatinond and Viles (2007) have produced a set of empirical rules for predicting the appearance of visible CD spectra for Cu2+ and Ni2+ square-planar complexes involving histidine and main-chain coordination.
CD gives less specific structural information than X-ray crystallography and protein NMR spectroscopy, for example, which both give atomic resolution data. However, CD spectroscopy is a quick method that does not require large amounts of proteins or extensive data processing. Thus CD can be used to survey a large number of solvent conditions, varying temperature, pH, salinity, and the presence of various cofactors.
CD spectroscopy is usually used to study proteins in solution, and thus it complements methods that study the solid state. This is also a limitation, in that many proteins are embedded in membranes in their native state, and solutions containing membrane structures are often strongly scattering. CD is sometimes measured in thin films.

Jasco J-810 CD JASCO J-810 CD


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Location 03.411


Dennis Löwik, Britta Ramakers