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A spin label (SL) is an organic molecule which possesses an unpaired electron, usually on a nitrogen atom, and the ability to bind to another molecule. Spin labels are normally used as tools for probing proteins or biological membrane-local dynamics using EPR spectroscopy. The site-directed spin labeling (SDSL) technique allows one to monitor a specific region within a protein. In protein structure examinations, amino acid-specific SLs can be used.
The goal of spin labeling is somewhat similar to that of isotopic substitution in NMR spectroscopy. There one replaces an atom lacking a nuclear spin (and so is NMR-silent) with an isotope having a spin I 0 (and so is NMR-active). This technique is useful for tracking the chemical environment around an atom when full substitution with an NMR-active isotope is not feasible. Recently, spin-labelling has also been used to probe chemical local environment in NMR itself, in a technique known as Paramagnetic Relaxation Enhancement (PRE).
Berliner, L.J. (1976). Spin labeling I : theory and applications, Academic Press, New York.
Berliner, L.J. (1979). Spin labeling II : theory and applications, Academic Press, New York.