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J Mol Biol. 2002 May 3;318(3):805-14.

Transient intermediary states with high and low folding probabilities in the apparent two-state folding equilibrium of ACBP at low pH.

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Department of Protein Chemistry, Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Copenhagen, Ă˜ster Farimagsgade 2A, 1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


Measurements of the stability as a function of pH for the acyl-coenzyme A binding protein (ACBP) has shown a significant difference in the pH transition midpoint measured by NMR spectroscopy at pH 3.12 and the transition midpoint measured at pH 2.92 and 2.97 by circular dichroism and by fluorescence spectroscopy, respectively. A similar behavior has not been observed in other proteins. It is suggested that these differences arise because the population of the unfolded molecules still contains significant amounts of native like secondary and tertiary structure. NMR spectroscopy measures the concentration of the two components of the folding unfolding equilibrium individually, whereas circular dichroism and fluorescence measure the concentration of the conformations of the light-absorbing chromophores present in both the folded and the unfolded molecules. In the narrow pH range, nascent structure can be detected as the average amount of secondary structure per unfolded molecule and hydrophobic interactions in the population of unfolded molecules. These structures are not observable immediately by NMR spectroscopy; however, a chemical shift analysis of the peptide backbone (13)C chemical shift indicates strongly the existence of short-lived and transient helical structures at pH 2.3. Magnetization transfer studies have been applied to study the equilibrium between folded and unfolded ACBP near the pH transition point measured by NMR. This study has shown that there are two categories of subpopulations in the population of unfolded ACBP. One for which magnetization can be transferred to the folded form during the folding process, and one for which transfer is not observed. The molecules of the latter population of unfolded protein apparently, do not fold within the time-frame of the magnetization transfer experiment. This result suggests the existence of a subpopulation of the acid-unfolded protein molecules with a high propensity for folding. It is suggested that in this subpopulation, a particular set of native like interactions in the peptide backbone and between side-chains in the peptide chain have to be formed.

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