Raising the speed limit for β-hairpin formation

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Sep 5;134(35):14476-82. doi: 10.1021/ja3046734. Epub 2012 Aug 21.


Understanding the folding of the β-hairpin is a crucial step in studying how β-rich proteins fold. We have studied CLN025, an optimized ten residue synthetic peptide, which adopts a compact, well-structured β-hairpin conformation. Formation of the component β-sheet and β-turn structures of CLN025 was probed independently using a combination of equilibrium Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and laser-induced temperature jump coupled with time-resolved infrared and fluorescence spectroscopies. We find that CLN025 is an ultrafast folder due to its small free energy barrier to folding and that it exceeds the predicted speed limit for β-hairpin formation by an order of magnitude. We also find that the folding mechanism cannot be described by a simple two-state model, but rather is a heterogeneous process involving two independent parallel processes. Formation of stabilizing cross-strand hydrophobic interactions and turn alignment occur competitively, with relaxation lifetimes of 82 ± 10 and 124 ± 10 ns, respectively, at the highest probed temperature. The ultrafast and heterogeneous folding kinetics observed for CLN025 provide evidence for folding on a nearly barrierless free energy landscape, and recalibrate the speed limit for the formation of a β-hairpin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Folding
  • Thermodynamics


  • Oligopeptides