The folding of most proteins occurs during the course of their translation while their tRNA-bound C termini are embedded in the ribosome. How the close proximity of nascent proteins to the ribosome influences their folding thermodynamics remains poorly understood. Here, we have developed a mass spectrometry-based approach for determining the stabilities of nascent polypeptide chains using methionine oxidation as a folding probe. This approach enables quantitative measurement subglobal folding stabilities of ribosome nascent chains within complex protein mixtures and extracts. To validate the methodology, we analyzed the folding thermodynamics of three model proteins (dihydrofolate reductase, chemotaxis protein Y, and DNA polymerase IV) in soluble and ribosome-bound states. The data indicate that the ribosome can significantly alter the stability of nascent polypeptides. Ribosome-induced stability modulations were highly variable among different folding domains and were dependent on localized charge distributions within nascent polypeptides. The results implicated electrostatic interactions between the ribosome surface and nascent polypeptides as the cause of ribosome-induced stability modulations. The study establishes a robust proteomic methodology for analyzing localized stabilities within ribosome-bound nascent polypeptides and sheds light on how the ribosome influences the thermodynamics of protein folding.
Keywords: cotranslational protein folding; methionine oxidation; protein stability; proteomics; ribosome.