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J Mol Biol. 2004 Mar 5;336(5):1251-63.

Equilibrium and kinetic folding of rabbit muscle triosephosphate isomerase by hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry.

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Department of Chemistry, Nebraska Center for Mass Spectrometry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 29 Hamilton Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0304, USA.


Unfolding and refolding of rabbit muscle triosephosphate isomerase (TIM), a model for (betaalpha)8-barrel proteins, has been studied by amide hydrogen exchange/mass spectrometry. Unfolding was studied by destabilizing the protein in guanidine hydrochloride (GdHCl) or urea, pulse-labeling with 2H2O and analyzing the intact protein by HPLC electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Bimodal isotope patterns were found in the mass spectra of the labeled protein, indicating two-state unfolding behavior. Refolding experiments were performed by diluting solutions of TIM unfolded in GdHCl or urea and pulse-labeling with 2H2O at different times. Mass spectra of the intact protein labeled after one to two minutes had three envelopes of isotope peaks, indicating population of an intermediate. Kinetic modeling indicates that the stability of the folding intermediate in water is only 1.5 kcal/mol. Failure to detect the intermediate in the unfolding experiments was attributed to its low stability and the high concentrations of denaturant required for unfolding experiments. The folding status of each segment of the polypeptide backbone was determined from the deuterium levels found in peptic fragments of the labeled protein. Analysis of these spectra showed that the C-terminal half folds to form the intermediate, which then forms native TIM with folding of the N-terminal half. These results show that TIM folding fits the (4+4) model for folding of (betaalpha)8-barrel proteins. Results of a double-jump experiment indicate that proline isomerization does not contribute to the rate-limiting step in the folding of TIM.

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