Effect of Salts on The Stability and Folding of Staphylococcal Nuclease

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Anions, Fluorescence, Kinetics, Salts, Stability

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The stability and folding kinetics of wild-type and a mutant staphylococcal nuclease (SNase) at neutral pH are significantly perturbed by the presence of moderate to high concentrations of salts. Very substantial increases in stability toward thermal and urea denaturation were observed; for example, 0.4 M sodium sulfate increased the free energy of wild-type SNase by more than 2 kcal/mol. For the NCA SNase mutant, the presence of the salts abolished the cold denaturation observed at neutral pH with this variant, and substantially increased its stability. Significant effects of salts on the kinetics of refolding were also observed. For NCA SNase, the presence of the salts markedly increased the folding rates (up to 5-fold). On the other hand, chloride, in particular, substantially decreased the rate of folding of the wild-type protein. Since the rates of the slow phases due to proline isomerization were increased by salt, these steps must be coupled to conformational processes. Fluorescence energy transfer between the lone tryptophan (Trp140) and an engineered fluorescent acceptor at residue 64 revealed that the addition of a high concentration of KCl led to the formation of a transient folding intermediate not observed at lower salt concentrations, and in which residues 140 and 64 were much closer than in the native state. The salt-induced effects on the kinetics of folding are attributed to the enhanced stability of the transient folding intermediates. It is likely that the combination of the high net charge, due to the high isoelectric point, and the relatively low intrinsic hydrophobicity, leads to staphylococcal nuclease having only marginal stability at neutral pH. The salt-induced effects on the structure, stability, and kinetics of staphylococcal nuclease are attributed to the binding of counterions, namely, anions, resulting in minimization of intramolecular electrostatic repulsion. This leads to increased stability, more structure, and greater compactness, as observed. Consequently, localized electrostatic repulsion is present at neutral pH in SNase, probably contributing to its marginal stability. The results suggest that, in general, marginally stable globular proteins will be significantly stabilized by salts under conditions where they have a substantial net charge.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Biochemistry, v. 40, issue 7, p. 2113-2128