Folding of horse cytochrome c in the reduced state.J Mol Biol. 2001 Oct 05; 312(5):1135-60.JM
Equilibrium and kinetic folding studies of horse cytochrome c in the reduced state have been carried out under strictly anaerobic conditions at neutral pH, 10 degrees C, in the entire range of aqueous solubility of guanidinium hydrochloride (GdnHCl). Equilibrium unfolding transitions observed by Soret heme absorbance, excitation energy transfer from the lone tryptophan residue to the ferrous heme, and far-UV circular dichroism (CD) are all biphasic and superimposable, implying no accumulation of structural intermediates. The thermodynamic parameters obtained by two-state analysis of these transitions yielded DeltaG(H2O)=18.8(+/-1.45) kcal mol(-1), and C(m)=5.1(+/-0.15) M GdnHCl, indicating unusual stability of reduced cytochrome c. These results have been used in conjunction with the redox potential of native cytochrome c and the known stability of oxidized cytochrome c to estimate a value of -164 mV as the redox potential of the unfolded protein. Stopped-flow kinetics of folding and unfolding have been recorded by Soret heme absorbance, and tryptophan fluorescence as observables. The refolding kinetics are monophasic in the transition region, but become biphasic as moderate to strongly native-like conditions are approached. There also is a burst folding reaction unobservable in the stopped-flow time window. Analyses of the two observable rates and their amplitudes indicate that the faster of the two rates corresponds to apparent two-state folding (U<-->N) of 80-90 % of unfolded molecules with a time constant in the range 190-550 micros estimated by linear extrapolation and model calculations. The remaining 10-20 % of the population folds to an off-pathway intermediate, I, which is required to unfold first to the initial unfolded state, U, in order to refold correctly to the native state, N (I<-->U<-->N). The slower of the two observable rates, which has a positive slope in the linear functional dependence on the denaturant concentration indicating that an unfolding process under native-like conditions indeed exists, originates from the unfolding of I to U, which rate-limits the overall folding of these 10-20 % of molecules. Both fast and slow rates are independent of protein concentration and pH of the refolding milieu, suggesting that the off-pathway intermediate is not a protein aggregate or trapped by heme misligation. The nature or type of unfolded-state heme ligation does not interfere with refolding. Equilibrium pH titration of the unfolded state yielded coupled ionization of the two non-native histidine ligands, H26 and H33, with a pK(a) value of 5.85. A substantial fraction of the unfolded population persists as the six-coordinate form even at low pH, suggesting ligation of the two methionine residues, M65 and M80. These results have been used along with the known ligand-binding properties of unfolded cytochrome c to propose a model for heme ligation dynamics. In contrast to refolding kinetics, the unfolding kinetics of reduced cytochrome c recorded by observation of Soret absorbance and tryptophan fluorescence are all slow, simple, and single-exponential. In the presence of 6.8 M GdnHCl, the unfolding time constant is approximately 300(+/-125) ms. There is no burst unfolding reaction. Simulations of the observed folding-unfolding kinetics by numerical solutions of the rate equations corresponding to the three-state I<-->U<-->N scheme have yielded the microscopic rate constants.