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Protein Sci. 1994 Nov;3(11):1953-60.

Folding and aggregation of TEM beta-lactamase: analogies with the formation of inclusion bodies in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin 78712.


The enzyme TEM beta-lactamase has been used as a model for understanding the pathway leading to formation of inclusion bodies in Escherichia coli. The equilibrium denaturation of TEM beta-lactamase revealed that an intermediate that has lost enzymatic activity, native protein fluorescence, and UV absorption, but retains 60% of the native circular dichroism signal, becomes populated at intermediate (1.0-1.4 M) concentrations of guanidium chloride (GdmCl). This species exhibits a large increase in bis-1-anilino-8-naphthalene sulfonic acid fluorescence, indicating the presence of exposed hydrophobic surfaces. When TEM beta-lactamase was unfolded in different initial concentrations of GdmCl and refolded to the same final conditions by dialysis a distinct minimum in the yield of active protein was observed for initial concentrations of GdmCl in the 1.0-1.5 M range. It was shown that the lower reactivation yield was solely due to the formation of noncovalently linked aggregates. We propose that the aggregation of TEM beta-lactamase involves the association of a compact state having partially exposed hydrophobic surfaces. This hypothesis is consistent with our recent findings that TEM beta-lactamase inclusion bodies contains extensive secondary structure (Przybycien TM, Dunn JP, Valax P, Georgiou G, 1994, Protein Eng 7:131-136). Finally, we have also shown that protein aggregation was enhanced at higher temperatures and in the presence of 5 mM dithiothreitol and was inhibited by the addition of sucrose. These conditions exert a similar effect on the formation of inclusion bodies in vivo.

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