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J Mol Biol. 2008 Nov 14;383(3):683-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.07.035. Epub 2008 Jul 22.

Cotranslational folding promotes beta-helix formation and avoids aggregation in vivo.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Newly synthesized proteins must form their native structures in the crowded environment of the cell, while avoiding non-native conformations that can lead to aggregation. Yet, remarkably little is known about the progressive folding of polypeptide chains during chain synthesis by the ribosome or of the influence of this folding environment on productive folding in vivo. P22 tailspike is a homotrimeric protein that is prone to aggregation via misfolding of its central beta-helix domain in vitro. We have produced stalled ribosome:tailspike nascent chain complexes of four fixed lengths in vivo, in order to assess cotranslational folding of newly synthesized tailspike chains as a function of chain length. Partially synthesized, ribosome-bound nascent tailspike chains populate stable conformations with some native-state structural features even prior to the appearance of the entire beta-helix domain, regardless of the presence of the chaperone trigger factor, yet these conformations are distinct from the conformations of released, refolded tailspike truncations. These results suggest that organization of the aggregation-prone beta-helix domain occurs cotranslationally, prior to chain release, to a conformation that is distinct from the accessible energy minimum conformation for the truncated free chain in solution.

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