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Nat Struct Biol. 2003 Aug;10(8):658-62.

Parallel protein-unfolding pathways revealed and mapped.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, MRC Centre for Protein Engineering, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK.


Theoretical studies of protein folding suggest that multiple folding pathways should exist, but there is little experimental evidence to support this. Here we demonstrate changes in the flux between different transition states on parallel folding pathways, resulting in unprecedented upward curvature in the denaturant-dependent unfolding kinetics of a beta-sandwich protein. As denaturant concentration increases, the highly compact transition state of one pathway becomes destabilized and the dominant flux of protein molecules shifts toward another pathway with a less structured transition state. Furthermore, point mutations alter the relative accessibility of the pathways, allowing the structure of two transition states on separate, direct folding pathways to be mapped by systematic Phi-value analysis. It has been suggested that pathways with diffuse rather than localized transition states are evolutionarily selected to prevent misfolding, and indeed we find that the transition state favored at high concentrations of denaturant is more polarized than the physiologically relevant one.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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