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Protein Sci. 2002 Jan;11(1):82-91.

Early formation of a beta hairpin during folding of staphylococcal nuclease H124L as detected by pulsed hydrogen exchange.

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Department of Chemistry, Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118, USA.


Pulsed hydrogen exchange methods were used to follow the formation of structure during the refolding of acid-denatured staphylococcal nuclease containing a stabilizing Leu substitution at position 124 (H124L SNase). The protection of more than 60 backbone amide protons in uniformly (15)N-labeled H124L SNase was monitored as a function of refolding time by heteronuclear two-dimensional NMR spectroscopy. As found in previous studies of staphylococcal nuclease, partial protection was observed for a subset of amide protons even at the earliest folding time point (10 msec). Protection indicative of marginally stable hydrogen-bonded structure in an early folding intermediate was observed at over 30 amide positions located primarily in the beta-barrel and to a lesser degree in the alpha-helical domain of H124L SNase. To further characterize the folding intermediate, protection factors for individual amide sites were measured by varying the pH of the labeling pulse at a fixed refolding time of 16 msec. Protection factors >5.0 were observed only for amide positions in a beta-hairpin formed by strands 2 and 3 of the beta-barrel domain and a single site near the C-terminus. The results indicate that formation of stable hydrogen-bonded structure in a core region of the beta-sheet is among the earliest structural events in the folding of SNase and may serve as a nucleation site for further structure formation.

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