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Distinct Unfolding and Refolding Pathways of Ribonuclease A Revealed by Heating and Cooling Temperature Jumps

Latest updated: May 26, 2020

Joan Torrent, Stéphane Marchal, Marc Ribó, Maria Vilanova, Cédric Georges, Yves Dupont, Reinhard Lange

Biophysical journal, Volume 94, Issue 10, 15 May 2008, Pages 4056-4065



Heating and cooling temperature jumps (T-jumps) were performed using a newly developed technique to trigger unfolding and refolding of wild-type ribonuclease A and a tryptophan-containing variant (Y115W). From the linear Arrhenius plots of the microscopic folding and unfolding rate constants, activation enthalpy (ΔH#), and activation entropy (ΔS#) were determined to characterize the kinetic transition states (TS) for the unfolding and refolding reactions. The single TS of the wild-type protein was split into three for the Y115W variant. Two of these transition states, TS1 and TS2, characterize a slow kinetic phase, and one, TS3, a fast phase. Heating T-jumps induced protein unfolding via TS2 and TS3; cooling T-jumps induced refolding via TS1 and TS3. The observed speed of the fast phase increased at lower temperature, due to a strongly negative ΔH# of the folding-rate constant. The results are consistent with a path-dependent protein folding/unfolding mechanism. TS1 and TS2 are likely to reflect X-Pro114 isomerization in the folded and unfolded protein, respectively, and TS3 the local conformational change of the β-hairpin comprising Trp115. A very fast protein folding/unfolding phase appears to precede both processes. The path dependence of the observed kinetics is suggestive of a rugged energy protein folding funnel.


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stopped-flow T-jump temperature jump refolding unfolding

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