Overhauser Dynamic Nuclear Polarization for the Study of Hydration Dynamics, Explained

John M. Franck, Songi Han

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

21 Scopus citations


We outline the physical properties of hydration water that are captured by Overhauser Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (ODNP) relaxometry and explore the insights that ODNP yields about the water and the surface that this water is coupled to. As ODNP relies on the pairwise cross-relaxation between the electron spin of a spin probe and a proton nuclear spin of water, it captures the dynamics of single-particle diffusion of an ensemble of water molecules moving near the spin probe. ODNP principally utilizes the same physics as other nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry (i.e., relaxation measurement) techniques. However, in ODNP, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) excites the electron spins probes and their high net polarization acts as a signal amplifier. Furthermore, it renders ODNP parameters highly sensitive to water moving at rates commensurate with the EPR frequency of the spin probe (typically 10 GHz). Also, ODNP selectively enhances the NMR signal contributions of water moving within close proximity to the spin label. As a result, ODNP can capture ps–ns movements of hydration waters with high sensitivity and locality, even in samples with protein concentrations as dilute as 10 µM. To date, the utility of the ODNP technique has been demonstrated for two major applications: the characterization of the spatial variation in the properties of the hydration layer of proteins or other surfaces displaying topological diversity, and the identification of structural properties emerging from highly disordered proteins and protein domains. The former has been shown to correlate well with the properties of hydration water predicted by MD simulations and has been shown capable of evaluating the hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity of a surface. The latter has been demonstrated for studies of an interhelical loop of proteorhodopsin, the partial structure of α-synuclein embedded at the lipid membrane surface, incipient structures adopted by tau proteins en route to fibrils, and the structure and hydration profile of a transmembrane peptide. This chapter focuses on offering a mechanistic understanding of the ODNP measurement and the molecular dynamics encoded in the ODNP parameters. In particular, it clarifies how the electron–nuclear dipolar coupling encodes information about the molecular dynamics in the nuclear spin self-relaxation and, more importantly, the electron–nuclear spin cross-relaxation rates. The clarification of the molecular dynamics underlying ODNP should assist in establishing a connection to theory and computer simulation that will offer far richer interpretations of ODNP results in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiological NMR Part B
EditorsA. Joshua Wand
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages45
ISBN (Print)9780128167625
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Publication series

NameMethods in Enzymology
ISSN (Print)0076-6879
ISSN (Electronic)1557-7988


  • Biological water
  • Cross-relaxation
  • DNP
  • Dynamic heterogeneity
  • EPR
  • ESR
  • Hydration layer
  • Hydration water
  • ODNP
  • Relaxometry
  • Solvation dynamics
  • Solvation thermodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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