Experimental support for the foldability-function tradeoff hypothesis: segregation of the folding nucleus and functional regions in fibroblast growth factor-1

Protein Sci. 2012 Dec;21(12):1911-20. doi: 10.1002/pro.2175. Epub 2012 Nov 6.


The acquisition of function is often associated with destabilizing mutations, giving rise to the stability-function tradeoff hypothesis. To test whether function is also accommodated at the expense of foldability, fibroblast growth factor-1 (FGF-1) was subjected to a comprehensive φ-value analysis at each of the 11 turn regions. FGF-1, a β-trefoil fold, represents an excellent model system with which to evaluate the influence of function on foldability: because of its threefold symmetric structure, analysis of FGF-1 allows for direct comparisons between symmetry-related regions of the protein that are associated with function to those that are not; thus, a structural basis for regions of foldability can potentially be identified. The resulting φ-value distribution of FGF-1 is highly polarized, with the majority of positions described as either folded-like or denatured-like in the folding transition state. Regions important for folding are shown to be asymmetrically distributed within the protein architecture; furthermore, regions associated with function (i.e., heparin-binding affinity and receptor-binding affinity) are localized to regions of the protein that fold after barrier crossing (late in the folding pathway). These results provide experimental support for the foldability-function tradeoff hypothesis in the evolution of FGF-1. Notably, the results identify the potential for folding redundancy in symmetric protein architecture with important implications for protein evolution and design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 1