Slow‐folding kinetics of ribonuclease‐A by volume change and circular dichroism: Evidence for two independent reactions

Joel A. Ybe, Peter C. Kahn

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The slow refolding of guanidine‐HC1‐denatured ribonuclease‐A was studied by volume change and by kinetic CD at 222 and 276 nm. Dilatometric measurements revealed that on refolding there is a fast volume change of +232 mL/mol of protein. This is followed by a very slow nonexponential change that takes about 25 min to reach equilibrium. By adding varying amounts of (NH4)2SO4, the slow volume change curve was resolved into 2 concurrent reactions. The faster of the 2 slow events entails a negative volume change of ‐64 mL/mol of protein and appears to arise from proline isomerization. The slower process, attended by a positive change of +53 mL/mol of protein, has properties consistent with the “XY” reaction of Lin and Brandts (1983, Biochemistry 22:563‐573). This reaction is so named because the conformational nature of neither its initial (Y) nor its final state (X) is known; the transition is characterized solely by its absorbance and fluorescence kinetics. These are the first direct physical measures attributable to the “XY” process. The early formation of a compact structure in the event responsible for the rapid +232‐mL/mol volume change, however, is consistent with the sequential model of folding (Cook KH, Schmid FX, Baldwin RL, 1979, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 76:6157‐6161; Kim PS, Baldwin RL, 1980, Biochemistry 19:6124‐6129). The usefulness of volume change measurements as a method of detecting structural rearrangements was confirmed by finding agreement between time constants obtained from parallel volume change and kinetic CD experiments. The measured volume changes arise from both changes in hydration and changes in the packing of atoms in the interior of the protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-649
Number of pages12
JournalProtein Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


  • circular dichroism
  • protein folding
  • protein hydration
  • ribonuclease‐A
  • volume change


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