In the current study, ANS fluorescence was established as a powerful tool to study proteins in solid-state. Silk fibroin from Bombyx mori cocoons was used as a paradigm protein. ANS incorporated into the films of silk fibroin exhibits fluorescence with two-lifetime components that can be assigned to the patches and/or cavities with distinct hydrophobicities. Decay associated spectra (DAS) of ANS fluorescence from both sites could be fit to the single log-normal component indicating their homogeneity. ANS binding sites in the protein film are specific and could be saturated by ANS titration. ANS located in the binding site that exhibits the long-lifetime fluorescence is not accessible to the water molecules and its DAS stays homogeneously broadened upon hydration of the protein film. In contrast, ANS from the sites demonstrating the short-lifetime fluorescence is accessible to water molecules. In the hydrated films, solvent-induced fluctuations produce an ensemble of binding sites with similar characters. Therefore, upon hydration, the short-lifetime DAS becomes significantly red-shifted and inhomogeneously broadened. The similar spectral features have previously been observed for ANS complexed with globular proteins in solution. The data reveal the origin of the short-lifetime fluorescence component of ANS bound to the globular proteins in aqueous solution. Findings from this study indicate that ANS is applicable to characterize dehydrated as well as hydrated protein aggregates, amyloids relevant to amyloid diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson, and prion diseases.
ANS has the potential to characterize proteins in solid states.
ANS fluorescence in protein films reveals the hydrophobic sites with distinct properties.
Short lifetime DAS of ANS in hydrated protein films is similar to that of ANS-protein complexes in solution.
ANS is applicable to characterize protein aggregates relevant to the Alzheimer's, Parkinson, and prion diseases.