Correlation between disulfide reduction and conformational unfolding in bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor

Li Chung Ma, Stephen Anderson

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10 Scopus citations


The native-like two-disulfide intermediate of bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI), with the disulfide between Cys14 and Cys38 reduced, plays a particularly important role in the disulfide-coupled folding pathway of BPTI because of its participation in the rate-determining step of the reaction [Creighton and Goldenberg (1984) J. Mol. Biol. 179, 497-526; Weissman and Kim (1991) Science 253, 1386-1393]. In order to study directly the relationship between conformational stability and reductive unfolding kinetics, and to gain insight concerning the rate-limiting transition state in the thiol/disulfide-mediated folding/unfolding reaction of BPTI, BPTI variants based on a native-like two-disulfide analog of this intermediate, BPTI(Ala38)/(Ala14), were examined. The amino acid replacements introduced into BPTI(Ala38)/(Ala14) rendered it thermodynamically less stable. The kinetic stability, with respect to reduction by dithiothreitol, of the disulfides in these BPTI(Ala38)/(Ala14) variants was also decreased by the substitutions. The stabilization free energy (ΔG), obtained from chemical denaturation measurements, and the activation energy of the conformational transition (ΔG((+))(conf)), from the reductive unfolding reaction for this series of variants, were highly correlated. The observed correlation implies a direct coupling of disulfide reduction to conformational stability in this set of protein variants. It also strongly suggests that the transition state in the rate-limiting step of the reductive unfolding reaction involves a highly unfolded conformation of the protein. These data are consistent with a conformation-coupled redox folding pathway for BPTI(Ala38)/(Ala14) involving two parallel paths with unfolded (30-51) and unfolded (5-55) as the reactive species. Furthermore, the results provide a theoretical explanation for the observed 1000-fold diminution in the rate of 5-55 disulfide bond formation, relative to that of 14-38 bond formation, from the one-disulfide (30-51) intermediate in the wild-type BPTI refolding reaction. The data fit a general paradigm for protein disulfide formation during protein folding whereby native-like structure in folding intermediates accelerates formation of solvent-exposed disulfides but inhibits formation of core disulfides. This model predicts that a 'rearrangement' mechanism (i.e., with non-native disulfides involved in the rate-limiting step) to form buried disulfides at a late stage in the folding reaction may be a common feature of redox folding pathways for surface disulfide-containing proteins of high stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3728-3736
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 25 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry


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