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J Mol Biol. 1999 May 7;288(3):489-99.

Characterization of transient intermediates in lysozyme folding with time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering.

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Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.


We have used synchrotron radiation, together with stopped-flow and continuous-flow mixing techniques to monitor refolding of lysozyme at pH 5.2. From data measured at times which range from 14 ms to two seconds, we can monitor changes in the size, the shape and the pair distribution function of the polypeptide chain during the folding process. Comparison of the results with the properties of native and GdmCl-unfolded lysozyme shows that a major chain collapse occurs in the dead-time of mixing. During this process about 50 % of the change in radius of gyration between the unfolded protein and the native state occurs and the polypeptide chain adopts a globular shape. Time-resolved fluorescence spectra of this collapsed state suggest that the hydrophobic side-chains are still highly solvent accessible. A subsequently formed intermediate with helical structure in the alpha-domain is nearly identical in size and shape with native lysozyme and has a solvent-inaccessible hydrophobic core. Despite its native-like properties, this intermediate is only slightly more stable (DeltaG0=-4 kJ/mol) than the collapsed state and still much less stable than native lysozyme (DeltaDeltaG0=36 kJ/mol) at 20 degrees C.

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