Calorimetric dissection of thermal unfolding of OspA, a predominantly beta-sheet protein containing a single-layer beta-sheet

J Mol Biol. 2002 Nov 1;323(4):751-62. doi: 10.1016/s0022-2836(02)00974-9.


Outer surface protein A (OspA) from Borrelia burgdorferi is a predominantly beta-sheet protein comprised of beta-strands beta1-beta21 and a short C-terminal alpha-helix. It contains two globular domains (N and C-terminal domains) and a unique single-layer beta-sheet (central beta-sheet) that connects the two domains. OspA contains an unusually large number of charged amino acid residues. To understand the mechanism of stabilization of this unique beta-sheet protein, thorough thermodynamic investigations of OspA and its truncated mutant lacking a part of the C-terminal domain were conducted using calorimetry and circular dichroism. The stability of OspA was found to be sensitive to pH and salt concentration. The heat capacity curve clearly consisted of two components, and all the thermodynamic parameters were obtained for each step. The thermodynamic parameters associated with the two transitions are consistent with a previously proposed model, in which the first transition corresponds to the unfolding of the C-terminal domain and the last two beta-strands of the central beta-sheet, and the second transition corresponds to that of the N-terminal domain and the first beta-strand of the central beta-sheet in the second peak. The ratio of calorimetric and van't Hoff enthalpies indicates that the first peak includes another thermodynamic intermediate state. Large heat capacity changes were observed for both transitions, indicative of large changes in the exposure of hydrophobic surfaces associated with the transitions. This observation demonstrates that hydrophobic parts are buried efficiently in the native structure in spite of the low content of hydrophobic residues in OspA. By decomposing the enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy into contributions from different interactions, we found that the enthalpy changes for hydrogen bonding and polar interactions are exceptionally large, indicating that OspA maintains its stability by making full use of its unique beta-sheet and high content of polar residues. These thermodynamic analyses demonstrated that it is possible to maintain protein tertiary structure by making effective use of an unusual amino acid composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Surface / chemistry*
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Calorimetry, Differential Scanning / methods*
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Temperature
  • Thermodynamics


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein