The fluorescence properties of six different single Trp mutants of the mannitol-specific transporter of Escherichia coli were studied in order to derive structural information at different locations in the enzyme. The use of pure detergent and special protein purification protocols was essential for reliable fluorescence spectra, as judged from tyrosine-like fluorescence in a tryptophan-minus mutant. The steady-state fluorescence spectra of EIImtl mutants with single tryptophan residues at positions 30, 42, 109, 117, 320, and 384 provided information concerning the polarity of the environment and the effects of mannitol binding at these positions. Tryptophan positions 42, 109, and 117 with emission maxima ranging from 337 to 340 nm are relatively polar, and position 384 with an emission maximum at 346 nm is highly polar, whereas position 30 is highly apolar with a maximum at 324 nm. The fluorescence characteristics of tryptophan 30 suggest a buried position in a hydrophobic part of the enzyme, which is confirmed by the low Stern-Volmer quenching constant for I- quenching. Positions 109 and 117 show the highest quenching constants, indicating the most exposed positions, whereas positions 320 and 42 are moderately quenched, by I-. The tryptophan residue at position 384 is, even in the absence of externally added quencher, very strongly quenched, possibly by the carboxylate from aspartate 385 or by a tyrosinate at position 458 which is nearby in the folded protein. The observed emission maxima and accessibilities of the tryptophans at the different positions are consistent with the predicted topology of the enzyme. When mannitol is bound to wild-type EIImtl, an increase in fluorescence emission intensity was observed which can now be attributed primarily to increased fluorescence intensity of the tryptophan at position 30.
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