In order to understand the thermodynamic and kinetic basis of the intrinsic stability of proteins from hyperthermophiles, the folding-unfolding reactions of cysteine-free pyrrolidone carboxyl peptidase (Cys142/188Ser) (PCP-0SH) from Pyrococcus furiosus were examined using circular dichroism (CD) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) at pH 2.3, where PCP-0SH exists in monomeric form. DSC showed a strong dependence of the shape and position of the unfolding profiles on the scan rate, suggesting the stability of PCP-0SH under kinetic control. On DSC timescales, even at a scan rate of 1 deg. C/hour, heat denaturation of PCP-0SH was non-equilibrium. However, over a long period of incubation of the heat-denatured PCP-0SH at pre-transition temperatures, it refolded completely, indicating reversibility with very slow relaxation kinetics. The rates of refolding of the heat-denatured PCP-0SH determined from the time-resolved DSC and CD spectroscopic progress curves were found to be similar within experimental error, confirming the mechanism of refolding to be a two-state process. The equilibrium established with a relaxation time of 5080 seconds (at t(m)=46.5 degrees C), which is unusually higher than the relaxation times observed for mesophilic and hyperthermophilic proteins. The long relaxation time may lead to the apparent irreversibility of an unfolding process occurring on the DSC experiment timescale. The refolding rate (9.8 x 10(-5) s(-1)) peaked near the t(m) (=46.5 degrees C), whereas the stability profile reached maxima (11.8 kJ mol(-1)) at 17 degrees C. The results clearly indicate the unusual mode of protein destabilization via a drastic decrease in the rate of folding at low pH and still maintaining a high activation energy barrier (284 kJ mol(-1)) for unfolding, which provides an effective kinetic advantage to unusually stable proteins from hyperthermophiles.