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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 1;100(7):3954-9. Epub 2003 Mar 24.

The structural basis for biphasic kinetics in the folding of the WW domain from a formin-binding protein: lessons for protein design?

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Department of Molecular Biology (TPC6), The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The mechanism of formation of beta-sheets is of great importance because of the significant role of such structures in the initiation and propagation of amyloid diseases. In this study we examine the folding of a series of three-stranded antiparallel beta-sheets known as WW domains. Whereas other WW domains have been shown to fold with single-exponential kinetics, the WW domain from murine formin-binding protein 28 has recently been shown to fold with biphasic kinetics. By using a combination of kinetics and thermodynamics to characterize a simple model for this protein, the origins of the biphasic kinetics is found to lie in the fact that most of the protein is able to fold without requiring one of the beta-hairpins to be correctly registered. The correct register of this hairpin is enforced by a surface-exposed hydrophobic contact, which is not present in other WW domains. This finding suggests the use of judiciously chosen surface-exposed hydrophobic pairs as a protein design strategy for enforcing the desired strand registry.

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