- Atomic-Level Structure Characterization of an Ultrafast Folding Mini-Protein Denatured State (2012)
- Atomic-level analyses of non-native protein ensembles constitute an important aspect of protein folding studies to reach a more complete understanding of how proteins attain their native form exhibiting biological activity. Previously, formation of hydrophobic clusters in the 6 M urea-denatured state of an ultrafast folding mini-protein known as TC5b from both photo-CIDNP NOE transfer studies and FCS measurements was observed. Here, we elucidate the structural properties of this mini-protein denatured in 6 M urea performing 15N NMR relaxation studies together with a thorough NOE analysis. Even though our results demonstrate that no elements of secondary structure persist in the denatured state, the heterogeneous distribution of R2 rate constants together with observing pronounced heteronuclear NOEs along the peptide backbone reveals specific regions of urea-denatured TC5b exhibiting a high degree of structural rigidity more frequently observed for native proteins. The data are complemented with studies on two TC5b point mutants to verify the importance of hydrophobic interactions for fast folding. Our results corroborate earlier findings of a hydrophobic cluster present in urea-denatured TC5b comprising both native and non-native contacts underscoring their importance for ultra rapid folding. The data assist in finding ways of interpreting the effects of pre-existing native and/or non-native interactions on the ultrafast folding of proteins; a fact, which might have to be considered when defining the starting conditions for molecular dynamics simulation studies of protein folding.
- Study of E. coli Hfq's RNA annealing acceleration and duplex destabilization activities using substrates with different GC-contents (2012)
- Folding of RNA molecules into their functional three-dimensional structures is often supported by RNA chaperones, some of which can catalyse the two elementary reactions helix disruption and helix formation. Hfq is one such RNA chaperone, but its strand displacement activity is controversial. Whereas some groups found Hfq to destabilize secondary structures, others did not observe such an activity with their RNA substrates. We studied Hfq’s activities using a set of short RNAs of different thermodynamic stabilities (GC-contents from 4.8% to 61.9%), but constant length. We show that Hfq’s strand displacement as well as its annealing activity are strongly dependent on the substrate’s GC-content. However, this is due to Hfq’s preferred binding of AU-rich sequences and not to the substrate’s thermodynamic stability. Importantly, Hfq catalyses both annealing and strand displacement with comparable rates for different substrates, hinting at RNA strand diffusion and annealing nucleation being rate-limiting for both reactions. Hfq’s strand displacement activity is a result of the thermodynamic destabilization of the RNA through preferred single-strand binding whereas annealing acceleration is independent from Hfq’s thermodynamic influence. Therefore, the two apparently disparate activities annealing acceleration and duplex destabilization are not in energetic conflict with each other.