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J Mol Biol. 1998 Apr 10;277(4):985-94.

Contact order, transition state placement and the refolding rates of single domain proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Theoretical studies have suggested relationships between the size, stability and topology of a protein fold and the rate and mechanisms by which it is achieved. The recent characterization of the refolding of a number of simple, single domain proteins has provided a means of testing these assertions. Our investigations have revealed statistically significant correlations between the average sequence separation between contacting residues in the native state and the rate and transition state placement of folding for a non-homologous set of simple, single domain proteins. These indicate that proteins featuring primarily sequence-local contacts tend to fold more rapidly and exhibit less compact folding transition states than those characterized by more non-local interactions. No significant relationship is apparent between protein length and folding rates, but a weak correlation is observed between length and the fraction of solvent-exposed surface area buried in the transition state. Anticipated strong relationships between equilibrium folding free energy and folding kinetics, or between chemical denaturant and temperature dependence-derived measures of transition state placement, are not apparent. The observed correlations are consistent with a model of protein folding in which the size and stability of the polypeptide segments organized in the transition state are largely independent of protein length, but are related to the topological complexity of the native state. The correlation between topological complexity and folding rates may reflect chain entropy contributions to the folding barrier.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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