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J Biol Chem. 1988 Aug 25;263(24):11820-5.

Conformational stability and activity of ribonuclease T1 with zero, one, and two intact disulfide bonds.

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Biochemistry Department, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843.


Ribonuclease T1 has two disulfide bonds linking cysteine residues 2-10 and 6-103. We have prepared a derivative of ribonuclease T1 in which one disulfide bond is broken and the cysteine residues carboxymethylated, (2-10)-RCM-T1, and three derivatives in which both disulfides are broken and the cysteine residues reduced, R-T1, carboxamidomethylated, RCAM-T1, or carboxymethylated, RCM-T1. The RNA hydrolyzing activity of these proteins has been measured, and urea and thermal denaturation studies have been used to determine conformational stability. The activity, melting temperature, and conformational stability of the proteins are: ribonuclease T1 (100%, 59.3 degrees C, 10.2 kcal/mol), (2-10)-RCM-T1 (86%, 53.3 degrees C, 6.8 kcal/mol), R-T1 (53%, 27.2 degrees C, 3.0 kcal/mol), RCAM-T1 (43%, 21.2 degrees C, 1.5 kcal/mol), and RCM-T1 (35%, 16.6 degrees C, 0.9 kcal/mol). Thus, the conformational stability is decreased by 3.4 kcal/mol when one disulfide bond is broken and by 7.2-9.3 kcal/mol when both disulfide bonds are broken. It is quite remarkable that RNase T1 can fold and function with both disulfide bonds broken and the cysteine residues carboxymethylated. The large decrease in the stability is due mainly to an increase in the conformational entropy of the unfolded protein which results when the constraints of the disulfide bonds on the flexibility are removed. We propose a new equation for predicting the effect of a cross-link on the conformational entropy of a protein: delta Sconf = -2.1 - (3/2)R 1n n, where n is the number of residues between the side chains which are cross-linked. This equation gives much better agreement with experimental results than other forms of this equation which have been used previously.

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