Formation of on- and off-pathway intermediates in the folding kinetics of Azotobacter vinelandii apoflavodoxin.

Y.J.M. Bollen, I.E. Sanchez, C.P.M. van Mierlo

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The folding kinetics of the 179-residue Azotobacter vinelandii apoflavodoxin, which has an alpha-beta parallel topology, have been followed by stopped-flow experiments monitored by fluorescence intensity and anisotropy. Single-jump and interrupted refolding experiments show that the refolding kinetics involve four processes yielding native molecules. Interrupted unfolding experiments show that the two slowest folding processes are due to Xaa-Pro peptide bond isomerization in unfolded apoflavodoxin. The denaturant dependence of the folding kinetics is complex. Under strongly unfolding conditions (>2.5 M GuHCl), single exponential kinetics are observed. The slope of the chevron plot changes between 3 and 5 M denaturant, and no additional unfolding process is observed. This reveals the presence of two consecutive transition states on a linear pathway that surround a high-energy on-pathway intermediate. Under refolding conditions, two processes are observed for the folding of apoflavodoxin molecules with native Xaa-Pro peptide bond conformations, which implies the population of an intermediate. The slowest of these two processes becomes faster with increasing denaturant concentration, meaning that an unfolding step is rate-limiting for folding of the majority of apoflavodoxin molecules. It is shown that the intermediate that populates during refolding is off-pathway. The experimental data obtained on apoflavodoxin folding are consistent with the linear folding mechanism I-off double left right arrow U double left right arrow I-on double left right arrow N, the off-pathway intermediate being the molten globule one that also populates during equilibrium denaturation of apoflavodoxin. The presence of such on-pathway and off-pathway intermediates in the folding kinetics of alpha-beta parallel proteins is apparently governed by protein topology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10475-10489
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • secondary structure
  • protein structures
  • fluorescence
  • lysozyme
  • transition
  • intensity
  • mechanism
  • barriers
  • dynamics
  • binding


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