Full reconstruction of a vectorial protein folding pathway by atomic force microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations.
During co-translational folding, the nascent polypeptide chain is extruded sequentially from the ribosome exit tunnel and is [corrected] under severe conformational constraints [corrected] dictated by the one-dimensional geometry of the tunnel. [corrected] How do such vectorial constraints impact the folding pathway? Here, we combine single-molecule atomic force spectroscopy and steered molecular dynamics simulations to examine protein folding in the presence of one-dimensional constraints that are similar to those imposed on the nascent polypeptide chain. The simulations exquisitely reproduced the experimental unfolding and refolding force extension relationships and led to the full reconstruction of the vectorial folding pathway of a large polypeptide, the 253-residue consensus ankyrin repeat protein, NI6C. We show that fully stretched and then relaxed NI6C starts folding by the formation of local secondary structures, followed by the nucleation of three N-terminal repeats. This rate-limiting step is then followed by the vectorial and sequential folding of the remaining repeats. However, after partial unfolding, when allowed to refold, the C-terminal repeats successively regain structures without any nucleation step by using the intact N-terminal repeats as a template. These results suggest a pathway for the co-translational folding of repeat proteins and have implications for mechanotransduction.
Lee, W; Zeng, X; Zhou, H-X; Bennett, V; Yang, W; Marszalek, PE
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