3 years ago

Isothermal chemical denaturation of large proteins: Path-dependence and irreversibility

State functions (e.g., ΔG) are path independent and quantitatively describe the equilibrium states of a thermodynamic system. Isothermal chemical denaturation (ICD) is often used to extrapolate state function parameters for protein unfolding in native buffer conditions. The approach is prudent when the unfolding/refolding processes are path independent and reversible, but may lead to erroneous results if the processes are not reversible. The reversibility was demonstrated in several early studies for smaller proteins, but was assumed in some reports for large proteins with complex structures. In this work, the unfolding/refolding of several proteins were systematically studied using an automated ICD instrument. It is shown that: (i) the apparent unfolding mechanism and conformational stability of large proteins can be denaturant-dependent, (ii) equilibration times for large proteins are non-trivial and may introduce significant error into calculations of ΔG, (iii) fluorescence emission spectroscopy may not correspond to other methods, such as circular dichroism, when used to measure protein unfolding, and (iv) irreversible unfolding and hysteresis can occur in the absence of aggregation. These results suggest that thorough confirmation of the state functions by, for example, performing refolding experiments or using additional denaturants, is needed when quantitatively studying the thermodynamics of protein unfolding using ICD.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S000326971730386X

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