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Direct evidence for a dry molten globule intermediate during the unfolding of a small protein.

ABSTRACT: Little is known about how proteins begin to unfold. In particular, how and when water molecules penetrate into the protein interior during unfolding, thereby enabling the dissolution of specific structure, is poorly understood. The hypothesis that the native state expands initially into a dry molten globule, in which tight packing interactions are broken, but whose hydrophobic core has not expanded sufficiently to be able to absorb water molecules, has very little experimental support. Here, we report our analysis of the earliest observable events during the unfolding of single chain monellin (MNEI), a small plant protein. Far- and near-UV circular dichroism measurements of GdnHCl-induced unfolding indicate that a molten globule intermediate forms initially, before the major slow unfolding reaction commences. Steady-state fluorescence resonance energy transfer measurements show that the C-terminal end of the single helix of MNEI initially moves rapidly away from the single tryptophan residue that is close to the N-terminal end of the helix. The average end-to-end distance of the protein also expands during unfolding to the molten globule intermediate. At this time, water has yet to penetrate the protein core, according to the evidence from intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence and 8-anilino-1-naphthalenesulfonic acid fluorescence-monitored kinetic unfolding measurements. Our results therefore provide direct evidence for a dry molten globule intermediate at the initial stage of unfolding. Our results further suggest that the structural transition between the native and dry molten globule states could be an all-or-none transition, whereas further swelling of the globule appears to occur gradually.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC2718347 | BioStudies | 2009-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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