We describe limitations in the use of 4,4'-dianilino-1,1'-binaphthyl-5,5'-disulfonic acid (bis-ANS) to examine unfolding intermediates associated with guanidinium chloride (GuHCl)-induced protein denaturation. Several studies have used alterations in fluorescence emission of bis-ANS to quantify the population of "molten globule" states. Our findings indicate that the observed changes in bis-ANS spectroscopic properties could originate from the interactions of bis-ANS and GuHCl and the aggregation of the dye at higher GuHCl concentrations. We posit that in the absence of additional complementary structural or spectroscopic measurements, the use of bis-ANS emission alone to monitor protein conformations can be misleading.
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