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Biochemistry. 1999 Nov 9;38(45):15009-16.

Natively unfolded human prothymosin alpha adopts partially folded collapsed conformation at acidic pH.

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  • 1Institute for Biological Instrumentation, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142292 Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia.


Prothymosin alpha has previously been shown to be unfolded at neutral pH, thus belonging to a growing family of "natively unfolded" proteins. The structural properties and conformational stability of recombinant human prothymosin alpha were characterized at neutral and acidic pH by gel filtration, SAXS, circular dichroism, ANS fluorescence, (1)H NMR, and resistance to urea-induced unfolding. Interestingly, prothymosin alpha underwent a cooperative transition from the unfolded state into a partially folded conformation on lowering the pH. This conformation of prothymosin alpha is a compact denatured state, with structural properties different from those of the molten globule. The formation of alpha-helical structure by the glutamic acid-rich elements of the protein accompanied by the partial hydrophobic collapse is expected at lower pH due to the neutralization of the negatively charged residues. It is possible that such conformational changes may be associated with the protein function.

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