Hyperpolarized water as universal sensitivity booster in biomolecular NMR. Academic Article uri icon


  • NMR spectroscopy is the only method to access the structural dynamics of biomolecules at high (atomistic) resolution in their native solution state. However, this method's low sensitivity has two important consequences: (i) typically experiments have to be performed at high concentrations that increase sensitivity but are not physiological, and (ii) signals have to be accumulated over long periods, complicating the determination of interaction kinetics on the order of seconds and impeding studies of unstable systems. Both limitations are of equal, fundamental relevance: non-native conditions are of limited pharmacological relevance, and the function of proteins, enzymes and nucleic acids often relies on their interaction kinetics. To overcome these limitations, we have developed applications that involve 'hyperpolarized water' to boost signal intensities in NMR of proteins and nucleic acids. The technique includes four stages: (i) preparation of the biomolecule in partially deuterated buffers, (ii) preparation of 'hyperpolarized' water featuring enhanced 1H NMR signals via cryogenic dynamic nuclear polarization, (iii) sudden melting of the cryogenic pellet and dissolution of the protein or nucleic acid in the hyperpolarized water (enabling spontaneous exchanges of protons between water and target) and (iv) recording signal-amplified NMR spectra targeting either labile 1H or neighboring 15N/13C nuclei in the biomolecule. Water in the ensuing experiments is used as a universal 'hyperpolarization' agent, rendering the approach versatile and applicable to any biomolecule possessing labile hydrogens. Thus, questions can be addressed, ranging from protein and RNA folding problems to resolving structure-function relationships of intrinsically disordered proteins to investigating membrane interactions.

published proceedings

  • Nat Protoc

altmetric score

  • 128.71

author list (cited authors)

  • Hilty, C., Kurzbach, D., & Frydman, L.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Hilty, Christian||Kurzbach, Dennis||Frydman, Lucio

publication date

  • January 2022