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J Mol Biol. 2001 May 11;308(4):721-43.

Heat-induced unfolding of neocarzinostatin, a small all-beta protein investigated by small-angle X-ray scattering.

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LURE, Orsay Cédex, 91898, France.

Erratum in

  • J Mol Biol. 2014 Feb 20;426(4):994.


Neocarzinostatin is an all-beta protein, 113 amino acid residues long, with an immunoglobulin-like fold. Its thermal unfolding has been studied by small-angle X-ray scattering. Preliminary differential scanning calorimetry and fluorescence measurements suggest that the transition is not a simple, two-state transition. The apparent radius of gyration is determined using three different approaches, the validity of which is critically assessed using our experimental data as well as a simple, two-state model. Similarly, each step of data analysis is evaluated and the underlying assumptions plainly stated. The existence of at least one intermediate state is formally demonstrated by a singular value decomposition of the set of scattering patterns. We assume that the pattern of the solution before the onset of the transition is that of the native protein, and that of the solution at the highest temperature is that of the completely unfolded protein. Given these, actually not very restrictive, boundary constraints, a least-squares procedure yields a scattering pattern of the intermediate state. However, this solution is not unique: a whole class of possible solutions is derived by adding to the previous linear combination of the native and completely unfolded states. Varying the initial conditions of the least-squares calculation leads to very similar solutions. Whatever member of the class is considered, the conformation of this intermediate state appears to be weakly structured, probably less than the transition state should be according to some proposals. Finally, we tried and used the classical model of three thermodynamically well-defined states to account for our data. The failure of the simple thermodynamic model suggests that there is more than the single intermediate structure required by singular value decomposition analysis. Formally, there could be several discrete intermediate species at equilibrium, or an ensemble of conformations differently populated according to the temperature. In the latter case, a third state would be a weighted average of all non native and not completely unfolded states of the protein but, since the weights change with temperature, no meaningful curve is likely to be derived by a global analysis using the simple model of three thermodynamically well-defined states.

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