Lanthanide ions and the N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) sugars are able to bind simultaneously to hen egg-white lysozyme (EC 3.2.1.17). The present study characterizes the properties of the ternary complexes with lysozyme, which involve up to seven paramagnetic lanthanides and two diamagnetic lanthanides, together with alpha GlcNAc, beta GlcNAc, alpha MeGlcNAc and beta MeGlcNAc. pH titrations and binding titrations of the GlcNAc sugars with lysozyme-La(III) complexes show that the GlcNAc sugars bind to at least two independent sites and that one of them competes with La(III) for binding to lysozyme. Given the known binding site of lanthanides at Asp-52 and Glu-35, the competitive binding site of GlcNAc is identified as subsite E. A simple analysis of the paramagnetic-lanthanide-induced shifts shows that the GlcNAc sugar binds in subsite C, in accordance with crystallographic results [Perkins, Johnson, Machin & Phillips (1979) Biochem. J. 181, 21-36]. This finding was refined by several computer analyses of the lanthanide-induced shifts of 17 proton and carbon resonances of beta MeGlcNAc. Good fits were obtained for all the signals, except for two that were affected by exchange broadening phenomena. No distinction could be made between a fit for a two-position model of Ln(III) binding with axial symmetry to lysozyme, according to the crystallographic result, or a one-position model with axial symmetry where the Ln(III) is positioned mid-way between Asp-52 and Glu-35. Although this work establishes the feasibility of lanthanide shift reagents for study of protein-ligand complexes, further work is required to establish the manner in which lanthanides bind to lysozyme in solution.

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