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FASEB J. 1996 Jan;10(1):57-66.

Thermolabile folding intermediates: inclusion body precursors and chaperonin substrates.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


An unexpected aspect of the expression of cloned genes is the frequent failure of newly synthesized polypeptide chains to reach their native state, accumulating instead as insoluble inclusion bodies. Amyloid deposits represent a related state associated with a variety of human diseases. The critical folding intermediates at the juncture of productive folding and the off-pathway aggregation reaction have been identified for the phage P22 tailspike and coat proteins. Though the parallel beta coil tailspike is thermostable, an early intracellular folding intermediate is thermolabile. As the temperature of intracellular folding is increased, this species partitions to inclusion bodies, a kinetic trap within the cell. The earliest intermediates along the in vitro aggregation pathway, sequential multimers of the thermolabile folding intermediates, have been directly identified by native gel electrophoresis. Temperature-sensitive folding (tsf) mutations identify sites in the beta coil domain, which direct the junctional intermediate down the productive pathway. Global suppressors of tsf mutants inhibit the pathway to inclusion bodies, rescuing the mutant chains. These mutants identify sites important for avoiding aggregation. Coat folding intermediates also partition to inclusion bodies as temperature is increased. Coat tsf mutants are suppressed by overexpression of the GroE chaperonin, indicating that the thermolabile intermediate is a physiological substrate for GroE. We suggest that many proteins are likely to have thermolabile intermediates in their intracellular folding pathways, which will be precursors to inclusion body formation at elevated temperatures and therefore substrates for heat shock chaperonins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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