The relaxation of long-lived states (LLS) corresponds to the slow return to statistical thermal equilibrium between symmetric and antisymmetric proton spin states. This process is remarkably sensitive to the presence of external spins and can be used to obtain information about partial unfolding of proteins. The group of Geoffrey Bodenhausen (LRMB - Laboratory of Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance ), together with researchers from France and the USA, detected the appearance of a destabilized conformer of ubiquitin when urea is added to the protein in its native state. This conformer shows increased mobility in the C-terminus, which significantly extends the lifetimes of proton LLS magnetisation in Ser-65. These changes could not be detected by conventional measurements of T1 and T2 relaxation times of protons, and would hardly be sensed by carbon-13 or nitrogen-15 relaxation measurements. Conformers with similar dynamic and structural features, as revealed by LLS relaxation times, could be observed, in the absence of urea, in two ubiquitin mutants, L67S and L69S.
Aurélien Bornet et al., ChemPhysChem, Volume 12, Issue 15, pages 2729–2734, 2011