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Nat Struct Biol. 1999 Jul;6(7):697-705.

Co-translational domain folding as the structural basis for the rapid de novo folding of firefly luciferase.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, California 94305, USA.


The 62 kDa protein firefly luciferase folds very rapidly upon translation on eukaryotic ribosomes. In contrast, the chaperone-mediated refolding of chemically denatured luciferase occurs with significantly slower kinetics. Here we investigate the structural basis for this difference in folding kinetics. We find that an N-terminal domain of luciferase (residues 1-190) folds co-translationally, followed by rapid formation of native protein upon release of the full-length polypeptide from the ribosome. In contrast sequential domain formation is not observed during in vitro refolding. Discrete unfolding steps, corresponding to domain unfolding, are however observed when the native protein is exposed to increasing concentrations of denaturant. Thus, the co-translational folding reaction bears more similarities to the unfolding reaction than to refolding from denaturant. We propose that co-translational domain formation avoids intramolecular misfolding and may be critical in the folding of multidomain proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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