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Biochemistry. 1994 May 17;33(19):5858-66.

Kinetic characterization of the chemotactic protein from Escherichia coli, CheY. Kinetic analysis of the inverse hydrophobic effect.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany.


CheY, the 129 amino acid chemotactic protein from Escherichia coli, is a good model for studying the folding process of the parallel alpha/beta family of proteins. A study of the folding kinetics of CheY using fluorescence and far-UV circular dichroism (CD) stopped-flow measurements is reported. CheY has three prolines, two of them in the trans conformation and one, Pro110, with a cis Lys-Pro peptide bond. This protein presents a unimolecular, but complex, kinetic mechanism that is dominated by a slow phase compatible with a trans-cis isomerization. Mutation of Pro110 to Gly results in the disappearance of this slow phase, indicating that this cis prolyl bond is responsible for it. The slow phase is catalyzed in a very inefficient way by prolyl isomerase, indicating that the cis bond is poorly accessible to the enzyme during refolding. In agreement with this is the fact that the isomerization of the Lys109-Pro110 bond occurs in an intermediate which contains 96% of the native far-UV CD signal and 80% of the native fluorescence signal. Analysis of the unfolded protein with all its prolines in the native conformation shows the existence of a very stable intermediate in the folding reaction. Mutation of a hyperexposed hydrophobic residue, Phe14, to Asn results in an increase in the free energy of unfolding of the protein of approximately 3 kcal mol-1. Kinetic analysis of the unfolding and refolding reactions of this mutant indicates that the major stabilization effect comes from the relative destabilization of the unfolded state and the kinetic intermediate with respect to the transition state, providing kinetic evidence for the inverse hydrophobic effect. This could also indicate the existence of nonnative interactions in folding intermediates.

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