Early collapse is not an obligate step in protein folding

J Mol Biol. 2004 Apr 23;338(2):369-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2004.02.065.


The dimensions and secondary structure content of two proteins which fold in a two-state manner are measured within milliseconds of denaturant dilution using synchrotron-based, stopped-flow small-angle X-ray scattering and far-UV circular dichroism spectroscopy. Even upon a jump to strongly native conditions, neither ubiquitin nor common-type acylphosphatase contract prior to the major folding event. Circular dichroism and fluorescence indicate that negligible amounts of secondary and tertiary structures form in the burst phase. Thus, for these two denatured states, collapse and secondary structure formation are not energetically downhill processes even under aqueous, low-denaturant conditions. In addition, water appears to be as good a solvent as that with high concentrations of denaturant, when considering the over-all dimensions of the denatured state. However, the removal of denaturant does subtly alter the distribution of backbone dihedral phi,psi angles, most likely resulting in a shift from the polyproline II region to the helical region of the Ramachandran map. We consider the thermodynamic origins of these behaviors along with implications for folding mechanisms and computer simulations thereof.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acid Anhydride Hydrolases / chemistry*
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Thermodynamics
  • Time Factors
  • Ubiquitin / chemistry*
  • X-Rays


  • Ubiquitin
  • Acid Anhydride Hydrolases
  • acylphosphatase