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Protein Sci. 1998 Dec;7(12):2533-40.

Pulmonary surfactant-associated polypeptide C in a mixed organic solvent transforms from a monomeric alpha-helical state into insoluble beta-sheet aggregates.

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  • 1Institut für Molekularbiologie und Biophysik, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Hönggerberg, Zürich, Switzerland.


In the 35-residue pulmonary surfactant-associated lipopolypeptide C (SP-C), the stability of the valyl-rich alpha-helix comprising residues 9-34 has been monitored by circular dichroism, nuclear magnetic resonance, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy in both a mixed organic solvent and in phospholipid micelles. The alpha-helical form of SP-C observed in freshly prepared solutions in a mixed solvent of CHCl3/CH3OH/0.1 M HCl 32:64:5 (v/v/v) at 10 degrees C undergoes within a few days an irreversible transformation to an insoluble aggregate that contains beta-sheet secondary structure. Hydrogen exchange experiments revealed that this conformational transition proceeds through a transition state with an Eyring free activation enthalpy of about 100 kJ mol(-1), in which the polypeptide segment 9-27 largely retains a helical conformation. In dodecylphosphocholine micelles, the helical form of SP-C was maintained after seven weeks at 50 degrees C. The alpha-helical form of SP-C thus seems to be the thermodynamically most stable state in this micellar environment, whereas its presence in freshly prepared samples in the aforementioned mixed solvent is due to a high kinetic barrier for unfolding. These observations support a previously proposed pathway for in vivo synthesis of SP-C through proteolytic processing from a 21-kDa precursor protein.

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