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J Biol Chem. 1996 Nov 22;271(47):29937-44.

N-Ethylmaleimide inactivates a nucleotide-free Hsp70 molecular chaperone.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York 11203, USA.


Hsp70 molecular chaperones are ATPases that bind to hydrophobic regions of proteins and guide their folding, assembly, and translocation across membranes. The ability of purified Hsp70s to uncoat clathrin-coated vesicles or to stimulate the post-translational translocation of precursor proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, and the nucleus was previously shown not to be sensitive to the sulfhydryl-modifying reagent N-ethylmaleimide (NEM). During purification of factors required for protein folding in the cytosol, we found that the ATP-agarose binding activity of the yeast Hsp70 Ssa1p in postribosomal supernatants was inhibited by NEM. We also found that completely removing nucleotides from purified Ssa1p rendered its ATP-agarose binding activity, ATPase activity, and post-translational translocation-stimulating activity sensitive to NEM. We modified nucleotide-free Ssa1p with [14C]NEM and then digested it with proteases. Purification and sequencing of the radiolabeled proteolytic fragments revealed that each of Ssa1p's three cysteine residues (Cys-15, Cys-264, and Cys-303) was modified with [14C]NEM. ADP protected each of the cysteine residues from modification and protected Ssa1p from inactivation. The cysteine residues are the reactive centers of three NEM-reactive sites (NRS1-3). A comparison of Ssa1p's NRSs to sequences of other Hsp70s and actin revealed that Cys-15 of NRS1 is highly conserved and that sensitivity to NEM may be a property of many Hsp70s. Based on the three-dimensional structure of Hsc70, the predicted locations of Ssa1p's cysteine residues suggest that NEM may disrupt the conformation of Ssa1p or interfere with its ability to bind nucleotides. Together the results demonstrate that Ssa1p is an NEM-sensitive factor in cytosolic extracts from yeast that stimulates post-translational translocation of proteins into organelles.

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