Lymphotactin (Ltn) is a unique chemokine that under physiological solution conditions displays large-scale structural heterogeneity, defining a new category of "metamorphic proteins". Previous Ltn studies have indicated that each form is required for proper function, but the mechanism of interconversion remains unknown. Here we have investigated the temperature dependence of kinetic rates associated with interconversion and unfolding by stopped-flow fluorescence to determine transition-state free energies. Comparisons of derived thermodynamic parameters revealed striking similarities between interconversion and protein unfolding. We conclude that Ltn native-state rearrangement proceeds by way of a large-scale unfolding process rather than a unique intermediate structure.
© 2011 American Chemical Society