Isotope labeling is a powerful technique to probe detailed structures of biological molecules with a variety of analytical methods such as NMR and vibrational spectroscopies. It is important to obtain molecular structural information on biological molecules at interfaces such as cell membranes, but it is challenging to use the isotope labeling method to study interfacial biomolecules. Here, by individually 13C-16O labeling ten residues of a peptide, Ovispirin-1, we have demonstrated for the first time that a site-specific environment of membrane associated peptide can be probed by the submonolayer surface sensitive sum frequency generation (SFG) vibrational spectroscopy in situ. With the peptide associated with a single lipid bilayer, the sinusoidal trend of the SFG line width and peak-center frequency suggests that the peptide is located at the interface beneath the lipid headgroup region. The constructive interferences between the isotope labeled peaks and the main peptide amide I peak contributed by the unlabeled components were used to determine the membrane orientation of the peptide. From the SFG spectral peak-center frequency, line width, and polarization dependence of the isotope labeled units, we deduced structural information on individual units of the peptide associated with a model cell membrane. We also performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to understand peptide-membrane interactions. The physical pictures described by simulation agree well with the SFG experimental result. This research demonstrates the feasibility and power of using isotope labeling SFG to probe molecular structures of interfacial biological molecules in situ in real time.
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© 2015 American Chemical Society.