Anion-induced Folding of Staphylococcal Nuclease: Characterization of Multiple Equilibrium Partially Folded Intermediates

Document Type


Publication Date



A States, Protein Folding, Molten Globule, Small-angle X-ray Scattering

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The refolding of acid-unfolded staphylococcal nuclease (SNase) induced by anions was characterized, and revealed the existence of three different partially folded intermediates (A states). The three intermediates lack the rigid tertiary structure characteristic of native states, and differ in their degree of folding as measured by probes of secondary structure, size, stability and globularity. The least structured conformation, A1, is stabilized by chloride (600 mM) or sulfate (100 mM). It is about 50% folded (based on circular dichroism and small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) data). The next most structured intermediate, A2, is induced by trifluoroacetate (300 mM) and has ∼70% native-like secondary structure. The most structured intermediate, A3, is stabilized by trichloroacetate (50 mM) and has native-like secondary structure content and is almost as compact as the native state. The stability toward urea denaturation increases with increasing structure of the intermediates. Moreover, urea-induced unfolding studies show that these partially folded species are separated from each other, and from the unfolded state, by significant free energy barriers, suggesting that they are distinct conformational states. Kratky plots, based on the SAXS data, indicate that the two more structured intermediates have significant globularity (i.e. a tightly packed core), whereas the less structured intermediate has very little globularity. These observations support a model of protein folding in which certain conformations are of particularly low free energy and hence populated under conditions which differentially destabilize the native state. These partially folded intermediates probably consist of ensembles of substates with a common core of native-like secondary structure, which is responsible for their stability. Consequently, it is likely that the intermediates observed here represent the equilibrium counterparts of transient kinetic intermediates.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Molecular Biology, v. 278, issue 4, p. 879-894