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J Mol Biol. 2001 Nov 23;314(2):321-9.

Cooperative folding of the isolated alpha-helical domain of hen egg-white lysozyme.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06032, USA.


Proteins in the alpha-lactalbumin and c-type lysozyme family have been studied extensively as model systems in protein folding. Early formation of the alpha-helical domain is observed in both alpha-lactalbumin and c-type lysozyme; however, the details of the kinetic folding pathways are significantly different. The major folding intermediate of hen egg-white lysozyme has a cooperatively formed tertiary structure, whereas the intermediate of alpha-lactalbumin exhibits the characteristics of a molten globule. In this study, we have designed and constructed an isolated alpha-helical domain of hen egg-white lysozyme, called Lyso-alpha, as a model of the lysozyme folding intermediate that is stable at equilibrium. Disulfide-exchange studies show that under native conditions, the cysteine residues in Lyso-alpha prefer to form the same set of disulfide bonds as in the alpha-helical domain of full-length lysozyme. Under denaturing conditions, formation of the nearest-neighbor disulfide bonds is strongly preferred. In contrast to the isolated alpha-helical domain of alpha-lactalbumin, Lyso-alpha with two native disulfide bonds exhibits a well-defined tertiary structure, as indicated by cooperative thermal unfolding and a well-dispersed NMR spectrum. Thus, the determinants for formation of the cooperative side-chain interactions are located mainly in the alpha-helical domain. Our studies suggest that the difference in kinetic folding pathways between alpha-lactalbumin and lysozyme can be explained by the difference in packing density between secondary structural elements and support the hypothesis that the structured regions in a protein folding intermediate may correspond to regions that can fold independently.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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