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J Mol Biol. 1997 Jun 27;269(5):757-68.

The power stroke of the DnaK/DnaJ/GrpE molecular chaperone system.

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Biochemisches Institut Universität Zürich, Switzerland.


The molecular chaperone DnaK, the Hsp70 homolog of Escherichia coli, acts in concert with the co-chaperones DnaJ and GrpE. The aim of this study was to identify the particular phase of the peptide binding-release cycle of the DnaK/DnaJ/GrpE system that is directly responsible for the chaperone effects. By real-time kinetic measurements of changes in the intrinsic fluorescence of DnaK and in the fluorescence of dansyl-labeled peptide ligands, the rates of the following steps in the chaperone cycle were determined: (1) binding of target peptide to fast-binding-and-releasing, low-affinity DnaK ATP; (2) DnaJ-triggered conversion of peptide x DnaK x ATP (T state) to slowly-acting, high-affinity peptide x DnaK x ADP x P(i) (R state); (3) switch from R to T state induced by GrpE-facilitated ADP/ATP exchange; (4) release of peptide. Under conditions approximating those in the cell, the apparent rate constants for the T --> R and R --> T conversion were 0.04 s(-1) and 1.0 s, respectively. The clearly rate-limiting T --> R conversion renders the R state a minor form of DnaK that cannot account for the chaperone effects. Because DnaK in the absence of the co-chaperones is chaperone-ineffective, the T state has also to be excluded. Apparently, the slow, ATP-driven conformational change T --> R is the key step in the DnaK/DnaJ/GrpE chaperone cycle underlying the chaperone effects such as the prevention of protein aggregation, disentangling of polypeptide chains and, in the case of eukaryotic Hsp70 homologs, protein translocation through membranes or uncoating of clathrin-coated vesicles.

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