Journal of the American Chemical Society
HIV-1 CA capsid protein possesses intrinsic conformational flexibility, which is essential for its assembly into conical capsids and interactions with host factors. CA is dynamic in the assembled capsid, and residues in functionally important regions of the protein undergo motions spanning many decades of timescales. Chemical shift anisotropy (CSA) tensors, recorded in magic-angle-spinning NMR experiments, provide direct residue-specific probes of motions on nano- to microsecond timescales. We combined NMR, MD, and Density-Functional-Theory calculations, to gain quantitative understanding of internal backbone dynamics in CA assemblies, and found that the dynamically averaged 15N CSA tensors calculated by this joined protocol are in remarkable agreement with experiment. Thus, quantitative atomic-level understanding of the relationships between CSA tensors, local backbone structure and motions in CA assemblies is achieved, demonstrating the power of integrating NMR experimental data and theory for characterizing atomic-resolution dynamics in biological systems.