Temperature-dependent Hammond behavior in a protein-folding reaction: analysis of transition-state movement and ground-state effects.
ABSTRACT: Characterization of the transition-state ensemble and the nature of the free-energy barrier for protein folding are areas of intense activity and some controversy. A key issue that has emerged in recent years is the width of the free-energy barrier and the susceptibility of the transition state to movement. Here we report denaturant-induced and temperature-dependent folding studies of a small mixed alpha-beta protein, the N-terminal domain of L9 (NTL9). The folding of NTL9 was determined using fluorescence-detected stopped-flow fluorescence measurements conducted at seven different temperatures between 11 and 40 degrees C. Plots of the log of the observed first-order rate constant versus denaturant concentration, "chevron plots," displayed the characteristic V shape expected for two-state folding. There was no hint of deviation from linearity even at the lowest denaturant concentrations. The relative position of the transition state, as judged by the Tanford beta parameter, beta(T), shifts towards the native state as the temperature is increased. Analysis of the temperature dependence of the kinetic and equilibrium m values indicates that the effect is due to significant movement of the transition state and also includes a contribution from temperature-dependent ground-state effects. Analysis of the Leffler plots, plots of Delta G versus Delta G degrees, and their cross-interaction parameters confirms the transition-state movement. Since the protein is destabilized at high temperature, the shift represents a temperature-dependent Hammond effect. This provides independent confirmation of a recent theoretical prediction. The magnitude of the temperature-denaturant cross-interaction parameter is larger for NTL9 than has been reported for the few other cases studied. The implications for temperature-dependent studies of protein folding are discussed.
Project description:Proteins are marginally stable molecules that fluctuate between folded and unfolded states. Here, we provide a high-resolution description of unfolded states under refolding conditions for the N-terminal domain of the L9 protein (NTL9). We use a combination of time-resolved Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) based on multiple pairs of minimally perturbing labels, time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), all-atom simulations, and polymer theory. Upon dilution from high denaturant, the unfolded state undergoes rapid contraction. Although this contraction occurs before the folding transition, the unfolded state remains considerably more expanded than the folded state and accommodates a range of local and nonlocal contacts, including secondary structures and native and nonnative interactions. Paradoxically, despite discernible sequence-specific conformational preferences, the ensemble-averaged properties of unfolded states are consistent with those of canonical random coils, namely polymers in indifferent (theta) solvents. These findings are concordant with theoretical predictions based on coarse-grained models and inferences drawn from single-molecule experiments regarding the sequence-specific scaling behavior of unfolded proteins under folding conditions.
Project description:The N-terminal domain of L9 (NTL9) is a 56-residue mixed ?-? protein that lacks disulfides, does not bind cofactors, and folds reversibly. NTL9 has been widely used as a model system for experimental and computational studies of protein folding and for investigations of the unfolded state. The role of side-chain interactions in the folding of NTL9 is probed by mutational analysis. ?-values, which represent the ratio of the change in the log of the folding rate upon mutation to the change in the log of the equilibrium constant for folding, are reported for 25 point mutations and 15 double mutants. All ?-values are small, with an average over all sites probed of only 0.19 and a largest value of 0.4. The effect of modulating unfolded-state interactions is studied by measuring ?-values in second- site mutants and under solvent conditions that perturb unfolded-state energetics in a defined way. Neither of these alterations significantly affects the distribution of ?-values. The results, combined with those of earlier studies that probe the role of hydrogen-bond formation in folding and the burial of surface area, reveal that the transition state for folding contains extensive backbone structure and buries a significant fraction of hydrophobic surface area, but lacks well developed side-chain-side-chain interactions. The folding transition state for NTL9 does not contain a specific "nucleus" consisting of a few key residues; rather, it involves extensive backbone hydrogen bonding and partially formed structure delocalized over almost the entire domain. The potential generality of these observations is discussed.
Project description:Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is a naturally occurring osmolyte that stabilizes proteins against denaturation. Although the impact of TMAO on the folding thermodynamics of many proteins has been well characterized, far fewer studies have investigated its effects on protein folding kinetics. In particular, no previous studies have used Phi-value analysis to determine whether TMAO may alter the structure of the folding transition state. Here we have measured the effects on folding kinetics of 16 different amino acid substitutions distributed across the structure of the Fyn SH3 domain both in the presence and absence of TMAO. The folding and unfolding rates in TMAO, on average, improved to equivalent degrees, with a twofold increase in the protein folding rate accompanied by a twofold decrease in the unfolding rate. Importantly, TMAO caused little alteration to the Phi-values of the mutants tested, implying that this compound minimally perturbs the folding transition state structure. Furthermore, the solvent accessibility of the transition state was not altered as reflected in an absence of a TMAO-induced change in the denaturant beta(T) (D) factors. Through TMAO-induced folding studies, a beta(T) (TMAO) factor of 0.5 was calculated for this compound, suggesting that the protein backbone, which is the target of action of TMAO, is 50% exposed in the transition state as compared to the native state. This finding is consistent with the equivalent effects of TMAO on the folding and unfolding rates. Through thermodynamic analysis of mutants, we also discovered that the stabilizing effect of TMAO is lessened with increasing temperature.
Project description:TI I27, a beta-sandwich domain from the human muscle protein titin, has been shown to fold via two alternative pathways, which correspond to a change in the folding mechanism. Under physiological conditions, TI I27 folds by a classical nucleation-condensation mechanism (diffuse transition state), whereas at extreme conditions of temperature and denaturant it switches to having a polarized transition state. We have used experimental Phi-values as restraints in ensemble-averaged molecular dynamics simulations to determine the ensembles of structures representing the two transition states. The comparison of these ensembles indicates that when native interactions are substantially weakened, a protein may still be able to fold if it can access an alternative transition state characterized by a much larger entropic contribution. Analysis of the probability distribution of Phi-values derived from ensemble averaged simulations, enables us to identify residues that form contacts in some members of the ensemble but not in others illustrating that many interactions present in transition states are not strictly required for the successful completion of the folding process.
Project description:Quantitative description of how proteins fold under experimental conditions remains a challenging problem. Experiments often use urea and guanidinium chloride to study folding whereas the natural variable in simulations is temperature. To bridge the gap, we use the molecular transfer model that combines measured denaturant-dependent transfer free energies for the peptide group and amino acid residues, and a coarse-grained C(?)-side chain model for polypeptide chains to simulate the folding of src SH(3) domain. Stability of the native state decreases linearly as [C] (the concentration of guanidinium chloride) increases with the slope, m, that is in excellent agreement with experiments. Remarkably, the calculated folding rate at [C] = 0 is only 16-fold larger than the measured value. Most importantly ln k(obs) (k(obs) is the sum of folding and unfolding rates) as a function of [C] has the characteristic V (chevron) shape. In every folding trajectory, the times for reaching the native state, interactions stabilizing all the substructures, and global collapse coincide. The value of (m(f) is the slope of the folding arm of the chevron plot) is identical to the fraction of buried solvent accessible surface area in the structures of the transition state ensemble. In the dominant transition state, which does not vary significantly at low [C], the core of the protein and certain loops are structured. Besides solving the long-standing problem of computing the chevron plot, our work lays the foundation for incorporating denaturant effects in a physically transparent manner either in all-atom or coarse-grained simulations.
Project description:The folding pathway of the B domain of protein A is the pathway most intensively studied by computer simulations. Recent systematic measurement of Phi values by Sato et al., however, has shown that none of the published computational predictions is consistent with the detailed features of the experimentally observed folding mechanism. In this article we use a statistical mechanical model of folding to show that sensitive dependence of multiple transition state ensembles on temperature and the denaturant concentration is the key to resolving the inconsistency among simulations and the experiment. Such sensitivity in multiple transition state ensembles is a natural consequence of symmetry-breaking in a nearly symmetrical protein.
Project description:The unfolding and folding of protein barnase has been extensively investigated in bulk conditions under the effect of denaturant and temperature. These experiments provided information about structural and kinetic features of both the native and the unfolded states of the protein, and debates about the possible existence of an intermediate state in the folding pathway have arisen. Here, we investigate the folding/unfolding reaction of protein barnase under the action of mechanical force at the single-molecule level using optical tweezers. We measure unfolding and folding force-dependent kinetic rates from pulling and passive experiments, respectively, and using Kramers-based theories (e.g., Bell-Evans and Dudko-Hummer-Szabo models), we extract the position of the transition state and the height of the kinetic barrier mediating unfolding and folding transitions, finding good agreement with previous bulk measurements. Measurements of the force-dependent kinetic barrier using the continuous effective barrier analysis show that protein barnase verifies the Leffler-Hammond postulate under applied force and allow us to extract its free energy of folding, ?G0. The estimated value of ?G0 is in agreement with our predictions obtained using fluctuation relations and previous bulk studies. To address the possible existence of an intermediate state on the folding pathway, we measure the power spectrum of force fluctuations at high temporal resolution (50 kHz) when the protein is either folded or unfolded and, additionally, we study the folding transition-path time at different forces. The finite bandwidth of our experimental setup sets the lifetime of potential intermediate states upon barnase folding/unfolding in the submillisecond timescale.
Project description:Crucial to revealing mechanistic details of protein folding is a characterization of the transition state ensemble and its structural dynamics. To probe the transition state of ubiquitin thermal unfolding, we examine unfolding dynamics and kinetics of wild-type and mutant ubiquitin using time-resolved nonlinear infrared spectroscopy after a nanosecond temperature jump. We observe spectral changes on two different time scales. A fast nonexponential microsecond phase is attributed to downhill unfolding from the transition state region, which is induced by a shift of the barrier due to the rapid temperature change. Slow millisecond changes arise from thermally activated folding and unfolding kinetics. Mutants that stabilize or destabilize beta strands III-V lead to a decreased or increased amplitude of the microsecond phase, indicating that the disruption or weakening of these strands occurs in the transition state. Unfolding features from microseconds to milliseconds can be explained by temperature-dependent changes of a two-dimensional free energy surface constructed by the native contacts between beta strands of the protein. In addition, the results support the possibility of an intermediate state in thermal unfolding.
Project description:Through a mutagenic investigation of Gly-48, a highly conserved position in the Src homology 3 domain, we have discovered a series of amino acid substitutions that are highly destabilizing, yet dramatically accelerate protein folding, some up to 10-fold compared with the wild-type rate. The unique folding properties of these mutants allowed for accurate measurement of their folding and unfolding rates in water with no denaturant by using an NMR spin relaxation dispersion technique. A strong correlation was found between beta-sheet propensity and the folding rates of the Gly-48 mutants, even though Gly-48 lies in an unusual non-beta-strand backbone conformation in the native state. This finding indicates that the accelerated folding rates of the Gly-48 mutants are the result of stabilization of a nonnative beta-strand conformation in the transition-state structure at this position, thus providing the first, to our knowledge, experimentally elucidated example of a mechanism by which folding can occur fastest through a nonnative conformation. We also demonstrate that residues that are most stabilizing in the transition-state structure are most destabilizing in the native state, and also cause the greatest reductions in in vitro functional activity. These data indicate that the unusual native conformation of the Gly-48 position is important for function, and that evolutionary selection for function can result in a domain that folds at a rate far below the maximum possible.
Project description:We study the folding thermodynamics and kinetics of the Pin1 WW domain, a three-stranded beta-sheet protein, by using all-atom (except nonpolar hydrogens) discontinuous molecular dynamics simulations at various temperatures with a G? model. The protein exhibits a two-state folding kinetics near the folding transition temperature. A good agreement between our simulations and the experimental measurements by the Gruebele group has been found, and the simulation sheds new insights into the structure of transition state, which is hard to be straightforwardly captured in experiments. The simulation also reveals that the folding pathways at approximately the transition temperature and at low temperatures are much different, and an intermediate state at a low temperature is predicted. The transition state of this small beta-protein at its folding transition temperature has a well-established hairpin 1 made of beta1 and beta2 strands while its low-temperature kinetic intermediate has a formed hairpin 2 composed of beta2 and beta3 strands. Theoretical results are compared with other simulation results as well as available experimental data. This study confirms that specific side-chain packing in an all-atom G? model can yield a reasonable prediction of specific folding kinetics for a given protein. Different folding behaviors at different temperatures are interpreted in terms of the interplay of entropy and enthalpy in folding process.