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Nat Struct Biol. 2001 Feb;8(2):151-5.

Structural and kinetic characterization of early folding events in beta-lactoglobulin.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Gifu University, Tsukasa-machi, Gifu 500-8705, Japan.


We have defined the structural and dynamic properties of an early folding intermediate of beta-lactoglobulin known to contain non-native alpha-helical structure. The folding of beta-lactoglobulin was monitored over the 100 micros--10 s time range using ultrarapid mixing techniques in conjunction with fluorescence detection and hydrogen exchange labeling probed by heteronuclear NMR. An initial increase in Trp fluorescence with a time constant of 140 micros is attributed to formation of a partially helical compact state. Within 2 ms of refolding, well protected amide protons indicative of stable hydrogen bonded structure were found only in a domain comprising beta-strands F, G and H, and the main alpha-helix, which was thus identified as the folding core of beta-lactoglobulin. At the same time, weak protection (up to approximately 10-fold) of amide protons in a segment spanning residues 12--21 is consistent with formation of marginally stable non-native alpha-helices near the N-terminus. Our results indicate that efficient folding, despite some local non-native structural preferences, is insured by the rapid formation of a native-like alpha/beta core domain.

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