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J Mol Biol. 2008 Jul 18;380(4):726-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.05.040. Epub 2008 May 24.

Folding of the KIX domain: characterization of the equilibrium analog of a folding intermediate using 15N/13C relaxation dispersion and fast 1H/2H amide exchange NMR spectroscopy.

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Institut de Biologie Structurale Jean-Pierre Ebel, CNRS, CEA, UJF, 41 rue Jules Horowitz, F-38027 Grenoble, France.


The KIX domain of the transcription co-activator CBP is a three-helix bundle protein that folds via rapid accumulation of an intermediate state, followed by a slower folding phase. Recent NMR relaxation dispersion studies revealed the presence of a low-populated (excited) state of KIX that exists in equilibrium with the natively folded form under non-denaturing conditions, and likely represents the equilibrium analog of the folding intermediate. Here, we combine amide hydrogen/deuterium exchange measurements using rapid NMR data acquisition techniques with backbone (15)N and (13)C relaxation dispersion experiments to further investigate the equilibrium folding of the KIX domain. Residual structure within the folding intermediate is detected by both methods, and their combination enables reliable quantification of the amount of persistent residual structure. Three well-defined folding subunits are found, which display variable stability and correspond closely to the individual helices in the native state. While two of the three helices (alpha(2) and alpha(3)) are partially formed in the folding intermediate (to approximately 50% and approximately 80%, respectively, at 20 degrees C), the third helix is disordered. The observed helical content within the excited state exceeds the helical propensities predicted for the corresponding peptide regions, suggesting that the two helices are weakly mutually stabilized, while methyl (13)C relaxation dispersion data indicate that a defined packing arrangement is unlikely. Temperature-dependent experiments reveal that the largest enthalpy and entropy changes along the folding reaction occur during the final transition from the intermediate to the native state. Our experimental data are consistent with a folding mechanism where helices alpha(2) and alpha(3) form rapidly, although to different extents, while helix alpha(1) consolidates only as folding proceeds to complete the native state-structure.

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