Article

Chain length dependence of apomyoglobin folding: structural evolution from misfolded sheets to native helices.

Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1101 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.
Biochemistry (Impact Factor: 3.38). 07/2003; 42(23):7090-9. DOI: 10.1021/bi0273056
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Very little is known about how protein structure evolves during the polypeptide chain elongation that accompanies cotranslational protein folding. This in vitro model study is aimed at probing how conformational space evolves for purified N-terminal polypeptides of increasing length. These peptides are derived from the sequence of an all-alpha-helical single domain protein, Sperm whale apomyoglobin (apoMb). Even at short chain lengths, ordered structure is found. The nature of this structure is strongly chain length dependent. At relatively short lengths, a predominantly non-native beta-sheet conformation is present, and self-associated amyloid-like species are generated. As chain length increases, alpha-helix progressively takes over, and it replaces the beta-strand. The observed trends correlate with the specific fraction of solvent-accessible nonpolar surface area present at different chain lengths. The C-terminal portion of the chain plays an important role by promoting a large and cooperative overall increase in helical content and by consolidating the monomeric association state of the full-length protein. Thus, a native-like energy landscape develops late during apoMb chain elongation. This effect may provide an important driving force for chain expulsion from the ribosome and promote nearly-posttranslational folding of single domain proteins in the cell. Nature has been able to overcome the above intrinsic misfolding trends by modulating the composition of the intracellular environment. An imbalance or improper functioning by the above modulating factors during translation may play a role in misfolding-driven intracellular disorders.

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