Structures and relative free energies of partially folded states of proteins.
ABSTRACT: The ability of proteins to fold to well defined compact structures is one of the most remarkable examples of the effect of natural selection on biological molecules. To understand their properties, including the stability, the mechanism of folding, and the possibilities of misfolding and association, it is necessary to know the protein free energy landscape. We use NMR data as restraints in a Monte Carlo sampling procedure to determine the ensemble of structures populated by human alpha-lactalbumin in the presence of increasing concentrations of urea. The ensembles of structures that represent the partially folded states of the protein show that two structural cores, corresponding to portions of the alpha and beta domains of the native protein, are preserved even when the native-like interactions that define their existence are substantially weakened. Analysis of the network of residual contacts reveals the presence of a complex interface region between the two structural cores and indicates that the development of specific interactions within this interface is the key step in achieving the native structure. The relative probabilities of the conformations determined from the NMR data are used to construct a coarse-grained free energy landscape for alpha-lactalbumin in the absence of urea. The form of the landscape, together with the existence of distinct cores, supports the concept that robustness and modularity are the properties that make possible the folding of complex proteins.
Project description:Photochemically induced dynamic nuclear polarization NMR pulse-labeling techniques have been used to obtain detailed information about side-chain surface accessibilities in the partially folded (molten globule) states of bovine and human alpha-lactalbumin prepared under a variety of well defined conditions. Pulse labeling involves generating nuclear polarization in the partially folded state, rapidly refolding the protein within the NMR sample tube, then detecting the polarization in the well dispersed native-state spectrum. Differences in the solvent accessibility of specific side chains in the various molten globule states indicate that the hydrophobic clusters involved in stabilizing the alpha-lactalbumin fold can be formed from interactions between a variety of different hydrophobic residues in both native and non-native environments. The multiple subsets of hydrophobic clusters are likely to result from the existence of distinct but closely related local minima on the free-energy landscape of the protein and show that the fold and topology of a given protein may be formed from degenerate groups of side chains.
Project description:The unfolded states of three homologous proteins with a very similar fold have been investigated by heteronuclear NMR spectroscopy. Secondary structure propensities as derived from interpretation of chemical shifts and motional restrictions as evidenced by heteronuclear (15)N relaxation rates have been analyzed in the reduced unfolded states of hen lysozyme and the calcium-binding proteins bovine alpha-lactalbumin and human alpha-lactalbumin. For all three proteins, significant deviations from random-coil predictions can be identified; in addition, the unfolded states also differ from each other, despite the fact that they possess very similar structures in their native states. Deviations from random-coil motional properties are observed in the alpha- and the beta-domain in bovine alpha-lactalbumin and lysozyme, while only regions within the alpha-domain deviate in human alpha-lactalbumin. The motional restrictions and residual secondary structure are determined both by the amino acid sequence of the protein and by residual long-range interactions. Even a conservative single point mutation from I to L in a highly conserved region between the two alpha-lactalbumins results in considerable differences in the motional properties. Given the differences in oxidative folding between hen lysozyme and alpha-lactalbumin, the results obtained on the unfolded states suggest that residual long-range interactions, i.e., those between the alpha- and the beta-domain of lysozyme, may act as nucleation sites for protein folding, while this property of residual structure is replaced by the calcium-binding site between the domains in alpha-lactalbumin.
Project description:Local structures in denatured proteins may be important in guiding a polypeptide chain during the folding and misfolding processes. Existence of local structures in chemically denatured proteins is a highly controversial issue. NMR parameters [coupling constants (3) J(H(alpha),H(N)) and chemical shifts] of chemically denatured proteins in general deviate little from their values in small peptides. These peptides were presumed to be completely unstructured; therefore, it was considered that chemically denatured proteins are random coils. But recent experimental studies show that small peptides adopt relatively stable structures in aqueous solutions. Small deviations of the NMR parameters from their values in small peptides may thus actually indicate the existence of local structures in chemically denatured proteins. Using NMR data and theoretical predictions we show here that fluctuating beta-strands exist in urea-denatured ubiquitin (8 M urea at pH 2). Residues in such beta-strands populate more frequently the left side of the broad beta region of -psi space. Urea-denatured ubiquitin contains no detectable beta-sheet secondary structures; nevertheless, the fluctuating beta-strands in urea-denatured ubiquitin coincide to the beta-strands in the native state. Formation of beta-strands is in accord with the electrostatic screening model of unfolded proteins. The free energy of a residue in an unfolded protein is in this model determined by the local backbone electrostatics and its screening by backbone solvation. These energy terms introduce strong electrostatic coupling between neighboring residues, which causes cooperative formation of beta-strands in denatured proteins. We propose that fluctuating beta-strands in denatured proteins may serve as initiation sites to form fibrils.
Project description:Atom-resolved real-time studies of kinetic processes in proteins have been hampered in the past by the lack of experimental techniques that yield sufficient temporal and atomic resolution. Here we present band-selective optimized flip-angle short transient (SOFAST) real-time 2D NMR spectroscopy, a method that allows simultaneous observation of reaction kinetics for a large number of nuclear sites along the polypeptide chain of a protein with an unprecedented time resolution of a few seconds. SOFAST real-time 2D NMR spectroscopy combines fast NMR data acquisition techniques with rapid sample mixing inside the NMR magnet to initiate the kinetic event. We demonstrate the use of SOFAST real-time 2D NMR to monitor the conformational transition of alpha-lactalbumin from a molten globular to the native state for a large number of amide sites along the polypeptide chain. The kinetic behavior observed for the disappearance of the molten globule and the appearance of the native state is monoexponential and uniform along the polypeptide chain. This observation confirms previous findings that a single transition state ensemble controls folding of alpha-lactalbumin from the molten globule to the native state. In a second application, the spontaneous unfolding of native ubiquitin under nondenaturing conditions is characterized by amide hydrogen exchange rate constants measured at high pH by using SOFAST real-time 2D NMR. Our data reveal that ubiquitin unfolds in a gradual manner with distinct unfolding regimes.
Project description:Backbone (15)N relaxation parameters and (15)N-(1)H(N) residual dipolar couplings (RDCs) have been measured for a variant of human alpha-lactalbumin (alpha-LA) in 4, 6, 8 and 10 M urea. In the alpha-LA variant, the eight cysteine residues in the protein have been replaced by alanines (all-Ala alpha-LA). This protein is a partially folded molten globule at pH 2 and has been shown previously to unfold in a stepwise non-cooperative manner on the addition of urea. (15)N R(2) values in some regions of all-Ala alpha-LA show significant exchange broadening which is reduced as the urea concentration is increased. Experimental RDC data are compared with RDCs predicted from a statistical coil model and with bulkiness, average area buried upon folding and hydrophobicity profiles in order to identify regions of non-random structure. Residues in the regions corresponding to the B, D and C-terminal 3(10) helices in native alpha-LA show R(2) values and RDC data consistent with some non-random structural propensities even at high urea concentrations. Indeed, for residues 101-106 the residual structure persists in 10 M urea and the RDC data suggest that this might include the formation of a turn-like structure. The data presented here allow a detailed characterization of the non-cooperative unfolding of all-Ala alpha-LA at higher concentrations of denaturant and complement previous studies which focused on structural features of the molten globule which is populated at lower concentrations of denaturant.
Project description:To test the roles of motif and amino acid sequence in the folding mechanisms of TIM barrel proteins, hydrogen-deuterium exchange was used to explore the structure of the stable folding intermediates for the of indole-3-glycerol phosphate synthase from Sulfolobus solfataricus (sIGPS). Previous studies of the urea denaturation of sIGPS revealed the presence of an intermediate that is highly populated at approximately 4.5 M urea and contains approximately 50% of the secondary structure of the native (N) state. Kinetic studies showed that this apparent equilibrium intermediate is actually comprised of two thermodynamically distinct species, I(a) and I(b). To probe the location of the secondary structure in this pair of stable on-pathway intermediates, the equilibrium unfolding process of sIGPS was monitored by hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. The intact protein and pepsin-digested fragments were studied at various concentrations of urea by electrospray and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry, respectively. Intact sIGPS strongly protects at least 54 amide protons from hydrogen-deuterium exchange in the intermediate states, demonstrating the presence of stable folded cores. When the protection patterns and the exchange mechanisms for the peptides are considered with the proposed folding mechanism, the results can be interpreted to define the structural boundaries of I(a) and I(b). Comparison of these results with previous hydrogen-deuterium exchange studies on another TIM barrel protein of low sequence identify, alpha-tryptophan synthase (alphaTS), indicates that the thermodynamic states corresponding to the folding intermediates are better conserved than their structures. Although the TIM barrel motif appears to define the basic features of the folding free energy surface, the structures of the partially folded states that appear during the folding reaction depend on the amino acid sequence. Markedly, the good correlation between the hydrogen-deuterium exchange patterns of sIGPS and alphaTS with the locations of hydrophobic clusters defined by isoleucine, leucine, and valine residues suggests that branch aliphatic side-chains play a critical role in defining the structures of the equilibrium intermediates.
Project description:The folding of predominantly ?-sheet proteins is complicated by the presence of a large number of non-local interactions in their native states, which increase the ruggedness of their folding energy landscapes. However, forming non-local contacts early in folding or even in the unfolded state can smooth the energy landscape and facilitate productive folding. We report that several sequence regions of a ?-barrel protein, cellular retinoic acid-binding protein 1 (CRABP1), populate native-like secondary structure to a significant extent in the denatured state in 8 M urea. In addition, we provide evidence for both local and non-local interactions in the denatured state of CRABP1. NMR chemical shift perturbations (CSPs) under denaturing conditions upon substitution of single residues by mutation support the presence of several non-local interactions in topologically key sites, arguing that the denatured state is conformationally restricted and contains topological information for the native fold. Among the most striking non-local interactions are those between the N- and C-terminal regions, which are involved in closure of the native ?-barrel. In addition, CSPs support the presence of two features in the denatured state: a major hydrophobic cluster involving residues from various parts of the sequence and a native-like interaction similar to one identified in previous studies as forming early in folding (Budyak et al., Structure 21, 476 ). Taken together, our data support a model in which transient structures involving nonlocal interactions prime early folding interactions in CRABP1, determine its barrel topology, and may protect this predominantly ?-sheet protein against aggregation.
Project description:Molecular vibrations, especially low frequency motions, may be used as an indication of the rigidity or the flatness of the protein folding energy landscape. We have studied the vibrational properties of native folded as well as random coil structures of more than 60 polypeptides. The picture we obtain allows us to perceive how and why the energy landscape progressively rigidifies while still allowing potential flexibility. Compared with random coil structures, both alpha-helices and beta-hairpins are vibrationally more flexible. The vibrational properties of loop structures are similar to those of the corresponding random coil structures. Inclusion of an alpha-helix tends to rigidify peptides and so-called building blocks of the structure, whereas the addition of a beta-structure has less effect. When small building blocks coalesce to form larger domains, the protein rigidifies. However, some folded native conformations are still found to be vibrationally more flexible than random coil structures, for example, beta(2)-microglobulin and the SH3 domain. Vibrational free energy contributes significantly to the thermodynamics of protein folding and affects the distribution of the conformational substates. We found a weak correlation between the vibrational folding energy and the protein size, consistent with both previous experimental estimates and theoretical partition of the heat capacity change in protein folding.
Project description:Structural insights into the equilibrium folding mechanism of the alpha subunit of tryptophan synthase (alpha TS) from Escherichia coli, a (beta alpha)(8) TIM barrel protein, were obtained with a pair of complementary nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopic techniques. The secondary structures of rare high-energy partially folded states were probed by native-state hydrogen-exchange NMR analysis of main-chain amide hydrogens. 2D heteronuclear single quantum coherence NMR analysis of several (15)N-labeled nonpolar amino acids was used to probe the side chains involved in stabilizing a highly denatured intermediate that is devoid of secondary structure. The dynamic broadening of a subset of isoleucine and leucine side chains and the absence of protection against exchange showed that the highest energy folded state on the free-energy landscape is stabilized by a hydrophobic cluster lacking stable secondary structure. The core of this cluster, centered near the N-terminus of alpha TS, serves as a nucleus for the stabilization of what appears to be nonnative secondary structure in a marginally stable intermediate. The progressive decrease in protection against exchange from this nucleus toward both termini and from the N-termini to the C-termini of several beta-strands is best described by an ensemble of weakly coupled conformers. Comparison with previous data strongly suggests that this ensemble corresponds to a marginally stable off-pathway intermediate that arises in the first few milliseconds of folding and persists under equilibrium conditions. A second, more stable intermediate, which has an intact beta-barrel and a frayed alpha-helical shell, coexists with this marginally stable species. The conversion of the more stable intermediate to the native state of alpha TS entails the formation of a stable helical shell and completes the acquisition of the tertiary structure.
Project description:We report the application of Langevin dynamics to the physics-based united-residue (UNRES) force field developed in our laboratory. Ten trajectories were run on seven proteins [PDB ID codes 1BDD (alpha; 46 residues), 1GAB (alpha; 47 residues), 1LQ7 (alpha; 67 residues), 1CLB (alpha; 75 residues), 1E0L (beta; 28 residues), and 1E0G (alpha+beta; 48 residues), and 1IGD (alpha+beta; 61 residues)] with the UNRES force field parameterized by using our recently developed method for obtaining a hierarchical structure of the energy landscape. All alpha-helical proteins and 1E0G folded to the native-like structures, whereas 1IGD and 1E0L yielded mostly nonnative alpha-helical folds although the native-like structures are lowest in energy for these two proteins, which can be attributed to neglecting the entropy factor in the current parameterization of UNRES. Average folding times for successful folding simulations were of the order of nanoseconds, whereas even the ultrafast-folding proteins fold only in microseconds, which implies that the UNRES time scale is approximately three orders of magnitude larger than the experimental time scale because the fast motions of the secondary degrees of freedom are averaged out. Folding with Langevin dynamics required 2-10 h of CPU time on average with a single AMD Athlon MP 2800+ processor depending on the size of the protein. With the advantage of parallel processing, this process leads to the possibility to explore thousands of folding pathways and to predict not only the native structure but also the folding scenario of a protein together with its quantitative kinetic and thermodynamic characteristics.