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Biochemistry. 1995 Dec 12;34(49):15895-905.

The equilibrium folding pathway of staphylococcal nuclease: identification of the most stable chain-chain interactions by NMR and CD spectroscopy.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


In a previous report [Alexandrescu, A. T., Abeygunawardana, C., & Shortle, D. (1994) Biochemistry 33, 1063-1072], NMR methods were used to characterize the residual structure in delta 131 delta, a large fragment of staphylococcal nuclease that serves as a model denatured state under nondenaturing conditions. On the basis of a large number of missing amide protons for the residues that form a three-strand antiparallel beta sheet in the native state, it was concluded that this beta meander may be highly populated in delta 131 delta, with severe line broadening due to relatively slow exchange between different conformational states. In the present report, results from circular dichroism spectroscopy and NMR spectroscopy indicate strands beta 2-beta 3 form a beta hairpin at urea concentrations below 6 M. Amide proton resonances from several hydrophobic residues adjacent to this beta hairpin disappear in concert with all of the beta 2-beta 3 residues, suggesting a local, non-native hydrophobic interaction may help stabilize the beta hairpin. At concentrations below 3 M, all amide resonances from strand beta 1 in delta 131 delta also disappear, suggesting that beta 1 may combine with the beta 2-beta 3 hairpin to form a native-like beta meander. In addition, the hydrophobic helix alpha 2 decreases from approximately 30% population in 0 M urea to approximately 10%-15% at 6 M urea, whereas helix alpha 1 goes from 10%-15% populated in 0 M urea to undetectable in 6 M urea. Characterization of a second, distinctly different denatured state, WT nuclease at pH 3.0 and low salt, reveals that this low-density acid-denatured state is structurally similar to delta 131 delta at low concentrations of urea. From these and previously published data, a tenative equilibrium folding pathway can be constructed for staphylococcal nuclease which describes the relative strengths and interdependencies of the chain-chain interactions involved in forming the native state.

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