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Hierarchical unfolding of the a-lactalbumin molten globule: presence of a compact intermediate without a unique tertiary fold


Hierarchical unfolding of the a-lactalbumin molten globule: presence of a compact intermediate without a unique tertiary fold



Journal of Molecular Biology 298(1): 6



ISSN/ISBN: 0022-2836

The difference between the framework model and the hydrophobic collapse model of protein folding largely rests on whether a secondary-structure framework can exist independently of native tertiary interactions. Here, we used circular dichroism and disulfide exchange experiments to examine the unfolding mechanism of a-LA(a), a two- disulfide variant of human a-lactalbumin (a-LA) that adopts a molten globule conformation under near physiological conditions. Our results show that as the concentration of denaturant increases, the a-LA molten globule first loses its ability to form a specific, native-like tertiary fold. Subsequently, at a higher denaturant concentration, the protein loses its secondary structure and adopts an extended conformation. A compact, non-native disulfide bond isomer, which does not form significantly under both native and strongly denaturing conditions, was found to be moderately populated in [similar or equal]2M guanidine hydrochloride (GuHCl). Qualitatively the same result was also obtained in urea. These results suggest that formation of secondary structure is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for formation of the native-like tertiary fold and support a hierarchical model of protein folding. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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Accession: 009867640

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