Analysis of the NMR spin-spin coupling mechanism across a H-bond: nature of the H-bond in proteins

Tell Tuttle, Jürgen Gräfenstein, Anan Wu, Elfi Kraka, Dieter Cremer

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29 Citations (Scopus)


The NMR spin-spin coupling constants (SSCCs) across the H-bond in proteins are sensitive to the electronic structure of the H-bonded system, i.e., the N-H···O=C group in proteins. The spin-spin coupling mechanism across the H-bond involves a strong electric field effect, steric exchange interactions, and some weak covalent effects (transfer of electronic charge). The electric field effect is reflected by one-orbital contributions to the SSCC and can be tested with the help of probe charges. A negative charge opposite to the N-H bond leads to increased polarization of the N-H bond, a larger contact density at the N nucleus, and a stronger FC coupling mechanism for those SSCCs involving the N nucleus. Similarly, a positive charge opposite to the O=C bond, distorts the O density into the direction of the external charge and in this way decreases the spin density at the O nucleus. All SSCCs across the H-bond depend primarily on the electric field effect and two-orbital steric exchange interactions. The lone pair contributions to the Fermi contact ferm of 2h J(ON) (and to a lesser extent 3h J(CN)) provide a direct measure on possible covalent contributions in the form of charge-transfer interactions. According to calculated charge-transfer values and lone-pair contributions to SSCC 2h J(ON), the covalent contribution to the H-bond is rather small (less than 15% at 1.9 Å for a bending angle β(COH) of 120°). The zeroth-order density and the spin-spin coupling mechanism, which depends largely on the first-order spin density, both describe the H-bond as being electrostatic rather than covalent. The electric field effect largely determines the geometrical dependence of the SSCCs of a hydrogen-bonded system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1129
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number3
Early online date24 Dec 2003
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2004


  • spin−spin coupling constants
  • SSCCs
  • H-bond
  • proteins

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