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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jan 19;365(3):881-91. Epub 2006 Oct 21.

The folding pathway of T4 lysozyme: an on-pathway hidden folding intermediate.

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Laboratory of Biochemistry, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Building 37, Room 6114E, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


T4 lysozyme has two easily distinguishable but energetically coupled domains: the N and C-terminal domains. In earlier studies, an amide hydrogen/deuterium exchange pulse-labeling experiment detected a stable submillisecond intermediate that accumulates before the rate-limiting transition state. It involves the formation of structures in both the N and C-terminal regions. However, a native-state hydrogen exchange experiment subsequently detected an equilibrium intermediate that only involves the formation of the C-terminal domain. Here, using stopped-flow circular dichroism and fluorescence, amide hydrogen exchange-folding competition, and protein engineering methods, we re-examined the folding pathway of T4-lysozyme. We found no evidence for the existence of a stable folding intermediate before the rate-limiting transition state at neutral pH. In addition, using native-state hydrogen exchange-directed protein engineering, we created a mimic of the equilibrium intermediate. We found that the intermediate mimic folds with the same rate as the wild-type protein, suggesting that the equilibrium intermediate is an on-pathway intermediate that exists after the rate-limiting transition state.

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