Close identity of a pressure-stabilized intermediate with a kinetic intermediate in protein folding.
ABSTRACT: Atomic detailed structural study of a transiently existing folding intermediate is severely limited because of its short life. In ubiquitin, we found that a pressure-stabilized equilibrium conformer shares a common structural feature with the proline-trapped kinetic intermediate found in a pulse-labeling (1)H(2)H exchange NMR study [Briggs, M. S. & Roder, H. (1992) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 89, 2017-2021]. The conformer is locally unfolded in the entire segment from residues 33 to 42 and in C-terminal residues 70-76. The close structural identity of an equilibrium intermediate stabilized under pressure with a transiently observed folding intermediate is likely to be general in terms of a folding funnel common to both experiments.
Project description:Friction plays a critical role in protein folding. Frictional forces originating from random solvent and protein fluctuations both retard motion along the folding pathway and activate protein molecules to cross free energy barriers. Studies of friction thus may provide insights into the driving forces underlying protein conformational dynamics. However, the molecular origin of friction in protein folding remains poorly understood because, with the exception of the native conformer, there generally is little detailed structural information on the other states participating in the folding process. Here, we study the folding of the four-helix bundle FF domain that proceeds via a transiently formed, sparsely populated compact on-pathway folding intermediate whose structure was elucidated previously. Because the intermediate is stabilized by both native and nonnative interactions, friction in the folding transition between intermediate and folded states is expected to arise from intrachain reorganization in the protein. However, the viscosity dependencies of rates of folding from or unfolding to the intermediate, as established by relaxation dispersion NMR spectroscopy, clearly indicate that contributions from internal friction are small relative to those from solvent, so solvent frictional forces drive the folding process. Our results emphasize the importance of solvent dynamics in mediating the interconversion between protein configurations, even those that are highly compact, and in equilibrium folding/unfolding fluctuations in general.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Prions as causative agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in humans and animals are composed of the infectious isomer, PrPSc, of the cellular prion protein, PrPC. The conversion and thus the propensity of PrPC to adopt alternative folds leads to the species-specific propagation of the disease. High pressure is a powerful tool to study the physico-chemical properties of proteins as well as the dynamics and structure of folding intermediates. RESULTS: Conformational intermediates of the human prion protein huPrPC were characterized by a combination of hydrostatic pressure (up to 200 MPa) with two-dimensional NMR spectroscopy. All pressure effects showed to be reversible and there is virtually no difference in the overall pressure response between the folded core of the N-terminal truncated huPrPC(121-230) and the full-length huPrPC(23-230). The only significant differences in the pressure response of full-length and truncated PrP suggest that E168, H187, T192, E207, E211 and Y226 are involved in a transient interaction with the unfolded N-terminus. High-pressure NMR spectroscopy indicates that the folded core of the human prion protein occurs in two structural states N1 and N2 in solution associated with rather small differences in free enthalpies (3.0 kJ/mol). At atmospheric pressure approximately 29% of the protein are already in the pressure favored conformation N2. There is a second process representing two possible folding intermediates I1 and I2 with corresponding average free enthalpies of 10.8 and 18.6 kJ/mol. They could represent preaggregation states of the protein that coexist at ambient pressure with a very small population of approximately 1.2% and less than 0.1%. Further the pressure response of the N-terminus indicates that four different regions are in a fast equilibrium with non-random structural states whose populations are shifted by pressure. CONCLUSION: We identified pressure stabilized folding intermediates of the human prion protein. The regions reflecting most strongly the transition to the intermediate states are the beta1/alpha1-loop and the solvent exposed side of alpha3. The most pressure-sensitive region (representing mainly intermediate I1) is the loop between beta-strand 1 and alpha-helix 1 (residue 139-141), indicating that this region might be the first entry point for the infectious conformer to convert the cellular protein.
Project description:Group II intron ribozymes fold into their native structure by a unique stepwise process that involves an initial slow compaction followed by fast formation of the native state in a Mg(2+)-dependent manner. Single-molecule fluorescence reveals three distinct on-pathway conformations in dynamic equilibrium connected by relatively small activation barriers. From a most stable near-native state, the unobserved catalytically active conformer is reached. This most compact conformer occurs only transiently above 20 mM Mg(2+) and is stabilized by substrate binding, which together explain the slow cleavage of the ribozyme. Structural dynamics increase with increasing Mg(2+) concentrations, enabling the enzyme to reach its active state.
Project description:Understanding the nature of partially folded intermediates transiently populated during protein folding is important for understanding both protein folding and misfolding. These ephemeral species, however, often elude direct experimental characterization. The well-characterized protein ribonuclease H (RNase H) from Escherichia coli populates an on-pathway intermediate identified in both bulk studies and single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments. Here, we set out to trap the transient intermediate of RNase H at equilibrium by selectively destabilizing the region of the protein known to be unfolded in this species. Surprisingly, a single change at Ile25 (I25A) resulted in the equilibrium population of the intermediate under near-native conditions. The intermediate was undetectable in a series of heteronuclear single quantum coherences, revealing the dynamic nature of this partially unfolded form on the timescale of NMR detection. This result is in contrast to studies in which the structures of trapped intermediates are solved by NMR, indicating that they are well packed and native-like. The dynamic nature of the RNase H intermediate may be important for its role as an on-pathway, productive species that promotes efficient folding.
Project description:Protein folding process involves formation of transiently occurring intermediates that are difficult to isolate and characterize. It is both necessary and interesting to characterize the structural conformations adopted by these intermediates, also called molten globules (MG), to understand protein folding. Here, we investigated the equilibrium (un)folding intermediate state of T4 phage gene product 45 (gp45, also known as DNA polymerase processivity factor or sliding clamp) obtained during chemical denaturation. We show that gp45 undergoes substantial conformational rearrangement during unfolding and forms an expanded dry-MG. By monitoring the fluorescence of tryptophans that were strategically introduced at various sites, we demonstrate that the urea-treated molecule has its surface residues flip inside the core, and closely placed residues move farther. We were also able to isolate and purify the MG form of gp45 in native condition (i.e., nondenaturing buffer, at physiological pH and temperature); characteristics of this purified molecule substantially match with urea-treated wild-type gp45. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the few reports that demonstrate the isolation and purification of a protein folding intermediate in native condition. We believe that our work not only allows us to dissect the process of protein folding, but will also help in the designing of folding inhibitors against sliding clamps to treat a wide variety of diseases from bacterial infection to cancer, due to the vast presence of clamps in all the domains of life.
Project description:Several all-helical single-domain proteins have been shown to fold rapidly (microsecond time scale) to a compact intermediate state and subsequently rearrange more slowly to the native conformation. An understanding of this process has been hindered by difficulties in experimental studies of intermediates in cases where they are both low-populated and only transiently formed. One such example is provided by the on-pathway folding intermediate of the small four-helix bundle FF domain from HYPA/FBP11 that is populated at several percent with a millisecond lifetime at room temperature. Here we have studied the L24A mutant that has been shown previously to form nonnative interactions in the folding transition state. A suite of Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill relaxation dispersion NMR experiments have been used to measure backbone chemical shifts and amide bond vector orientations of the invisible folding intermediate that form the input restraints in calculations of atomic resolution models of its structure. Despite the fact that the intermediate structure has many features that are similar to that of the native state, a set of nonnative contacts is observed that is even more extensive than noted previously for the wild-type (WT) folding intermediate. Such nonnative interactions, which must be broken prior to adoption of the native conformation, explain why the transition from the intermediate state to the native conformer (millisecond time scale) is significantly slower than from the unfolded ensemble to the intermediate and why the L24A mutant folds more slowly than the WT.
Project description:Protein domains usually fold without or with only transiently populated intermediates, possibly to avoid misfolding, which could result in amyloidogenic disease. Whether observed intermediates are productive and obligatory species on the folding reaction pathway or dispensable by-products is a matter of debate. Here, we solved the crystal structure of a small protein domain, SAP97 PDZ2 I342W C378A, and determined its folding pathway. The presence of a folding intermediate was demonstrated both by single and double-mixing kinetic experiments using urea-induced (un)folding as well as ligand-induced folding. This protein domain was found to fold via a triangular scheme, where the folding intermediate could be either on- or off-pathway, depending on the experimental conditions. Furthermore, we found that the intermediate was present at equilibrium, which is rarely seen in folding reactions of small protein domains. The folding mechanism observed here illustrates the roughness and plasticity of the protein folding energy landscape, where several routes may be employed to reach the native state. The results also reconcile the folding mechanisms of topological variants within the PDZ domain family.
Project description:Repeat proteins are widespread in nature, with many of them functioning as binding molecules in protein-protein recognition. Their simple structural architecture is used in biotechnology for generating proteins with high affinities to target proteins. Recent folding studies of ankyrin repeat (AR) proteins revealed a new mechanism of protein folding. The formation of an intermediate state is rate limiting in the folding reaction, suggesting a scaffold function of this transient state for intrinsically less stable ARs. To investigate a possible common mechanism of AR folding, we studied the structure and folding of a new thermophilic AR protein (tANK) identified in the archaeon Thermoplasma volcanium. The x-ray structure of the evolutionary much older tANK revealed high homology to the human CDK inhibitor p19(INK4d), whose sequence was used for homology search. As for p19(INK4d), equilibrium and kinetic folding analyses classify tANK to the family of sequential three-state folding proteins, with an unusual fast equilibrium between native and intermediate state. Under equilibrium conditions, the intermediate can be populated to >90%, allowing characterization on a residue-by-residue level using NMR spectroscopy. These data clearly show that the three C-terminal ARs are natively folded in the intermediate state, whereas native cross-peaks for the rest of the molecule are missing. Therefore, the formation of a stable folding unit consisting of three ARs is the necessary rate-limiting step before AR 1 and 2 can assemble to form the native state.
Project description:The molten globule, a conformational ensemble with significant secondary structure but only loosely packed tertiary structure, has been suggested to be a ubiquitous intermediate in protein folding. However, it is difficult to assess the tertiary packing of transiently populated species to evaluate this hypothesis. Escherichia coli RNase H is known to populate an intermediate before the rate-limiting barrier to folding that has long been thought to be a molten globule. We investigated this hypothesis by making mimics of the intermediate that are the ground-state conformation at equilibrium, using two approaches: a truncation to generate a fragment mimic of the intermediate, and selective destabilization of the native state using point mutations. Spectroscopic characterization and the response of the mimics to further mutation are consistent with studies on the transient kinetic intermediate, indicating that they model the early intermediate. Both mimics fold cooperatively and exhibit NMR spectra indicative of a closely packed conformation, in contrast to the hypothesis of molten tertiary packing. This result is important for understanding the nature of the subsequent rate-limiting barrier to folding and has implications for the assumption that many other proteins populate molten globule folding intermediates.
Project description:The microsecond folding and unfolding kinetics of ovine prion proteins (ovPrP) were measured under various solution conditions. A fragment comprising residues 94-233 of the full-length ovPrP was studied for four variants with differing susceptibilities to classical scrapie in sheep. The observed biexponential unfolding kinetics of ovPrP provides evidence for an intermediate species. However, in contrast to previous results for human PrP, there is no evidence for an intermediate under refolding conditions. Global analysis of the kinetic data, based on a sequential three-state mechanism, quantitatively accounts for all folding and unfolding data as a function of denaturant concentration. The simulations predict that an intermediate accumulates under both folding and unfolding conditions, but is observable only in unfolding experiments because the intermediate is optically indistinguishable from the native state. The relative population of intermediates in two ovPrP variants, both transiently and under destabilizing equilibrium conditions, correlates with their propensities for classical scrapie. The variant susceptible to classical scrapie has a larger population of the intermediate state than the resistant variant. Thus, the susceptible variant should be favored to undergo the PrP(C) to PrP(Sc) conversion and oligomerization.