We have exploited the capability of in-cell NMR to selectively observe flexible regions within folded proteins to carry out a comparative study of two members of the highly conserved frataxin family which are found both in prokaryotes and in eukaryotes. They all contain a globular domain which shares more than 50% identity, which in eukaryotes is preceded by an N-terminal tail containing the mitochondrial import signal. We demonstrate that the NMR spectrum of the bacterial ortholog CyaY cannot be observed in the homologous E. coli system, although it becomes fully observable as soon as the cells are lysed. This behavior has been observed for several other compact globular proteins as seems to be the rule rather than the exception. The NMR spectrum of the yeast ortholog Yfh1 contains instead visible signals from the protein.

Read More: Selective observation of the disordered import signal of a globular protein by in-cell NMR: The example of frataxins