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J Biol Chem. 1994 Apr 8;269(14):10304-11.

On the role of groES in the chaperonin-assisted folding reaction. Three case studies.

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  • 1Institut fur Biophysik und Physikalische Biochemie, Universitat Regensburg, Germany.


The mechanism by which correctly folded proteins are recovered from stable complexes with groEL is not well understood. Certain target proteins require ATP and groES, while others seemingly dispense with the cochaperonin. Here, we examine the chaperonin-assisted folding of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase, malate dehydrogenase, and citrate synthase, three proteins that are believed to require both chaperonin components for successful reactivation. Surprisingly, in all cases, the need for groES depended on the folding environment. Under "non-permissive" conditions, where unassisted spontaneous folding could not occur, reactivation to the native state required the complete chaperonin system (e.g. groEL, groES, and MgATP). However, under "permissive" conditions where spontaneous folding could occur groES was no longer mandatory. Instead, upon the addition of ATP alone, all three target proteins could be released from groEL, in a form that was capable of reaching the native state. In the permissive setting, groES merely accelerated the rate of the ATP-dependent release process. The results suggest that the incompletely folded protein species that are released from groEL, in the absence of groES, are not necessarily committed to the native state. Similar to the unassisted folding reaction, they still partition between productive and unproductive folding pathways in an environment-dependent manner. It follows that the mechanistic contribution of the co-chaperonin, groES, and its physiological significance in cellular protein folding, could be entirely missed in a permissive in vitro environment.

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