De novo folding of GFP fusion proteins: high efficiency in eukaryotes but not in bacteria

J Mol Biol. 2005 Oct 21;353(2):397-409. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.08.052.


Eukaryotic genomes encode a considerably higher fraction of multi-domain proteins than their prokaryotic counterparts. It has been postulated that efficient co-translational and sequential domain folding has facilitated the explosive evolution of multi-domain proteins in eukaryotes by the recombination of pre-existent domains. Here, we tested whether eukaryotes and bacteria differ generally in the folding efficiency of multi-domain proteins generated by domain recombination. To this end, we compared the folding behavior of a series of recombinant proteins comprised of green fluorescent protein (GFP) fused to four different robustly folding proteins through six different linkers upon expression in Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that, unlike yeast, bacteria are remarkably inefficient at folding these fusion proteins, even at comparable levels of expression. In vitro and in vivo folding experiments demonstrate that the GFP domain imposes significant constraints on de novo folding of its fusion partners in bacteria, consistent with a largely post-translational folding mechanism. This behavior may result from an interference of GFP with adjacent domains during folding due to the particular topology of the beta-barrel GFP structure. By following the accumulation of enzymatic activity, we found that the rate of appearance of correctly folded fusion protein per ribosome is indeed considerably higher in yeast than in bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / chemistry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / chemistry*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / chemistry
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins