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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Nov 23;96(24):13732-7.

Sequential mechanism of solubilization and refolding of stable protein aggregates by a bichaperone network.

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Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel.


A major activity of molecular chaperones is to prevent aggregation and refold misfolded proteins. However, when allowed to form, protein aggregates are refolded poorly by most chaperones. We show here that the sequential action of two Escherichia coli chaperone systems, ClpB and DnaK-DnaJ-GrpE, can efficiently solubilize excess amounts of protein aggregates and refold them into active proteins. Measurements of aggregate turbidity, Congo red, and 4,4'-dianilino-1, 1'-binaphthyl-5,5'-disulfonic acid binding, and of the disaggregation/refolding kinetics by using a specific ClpB inhibitor, suggest a mechanism where (i) ClpB directly binds protein aggregates, ATP induces structural changes in ClpB, which (ii) increase hydrophobic exposure of the aggregates and (iii) allow DnaK-DnaJ-GrpE to bind and mediate dissociation and refolding of solubilized polypeptides into native proteins. This efficient mechanism, whereby chaperones can catalytically solubilize and refold a wide variety of large and stable protein aggregates, is a major addition to the molecular arsenal of the cell to cope with protein damage induced by stress or pathological states.

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