Studies on the unfolding and refolding of oligomeric proteins
The unfolding and refolding of a number of oligomeric enzymes have been studied. These were: fumarase from pig heart, the NAD+ -dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase from yeast, the citrate synthases from pig hean, Acinetobacter anitratum and Thermoplasma acidophilum and the chaperone protein GroEL from Escherichia coli. In each case the unfolding by guanidinium chloride (GdnHCI) was monitored by enzyme activity (to detect possible perturbations at the active site), protein fluorescence (to detect changes in tertiary structure) and far U.v. circular dichroism (to detect changes in protein secondary structure). In general the losses in secondary and tertiary structure were found to run broadly in parallel, whereas the enzyme activity was lost at much lower concentrations of GdnHCl. This sensitivity to mild, denaturing conditions may reflect the greater flexibility of the active site compared with the molecule as a whole. Interestingly) the bacterial citrate synthases were activated in the presence of low concentrations of GdnHCl. Following denaturation) refolding was initiated by lowering the concentration of GdnHCI by dilution or dialysis. Only the dimeric citrate synthases (from pig heart and Thermoplasma acidophilum) could be reactivated to a moderate extent using the dilution procedure; less than 5% reactivation was observed for the other enzymes. In the cases of fumarase, NAD+ -dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase and the dimeric citrate synthases the degrees of reactivation following dialysis were significantly greater (approximately 50-75% of the native enzymes) than those obtained following the dilution procedure. Factors such as protein concentration and the inclusion of dithiothreitol in the dialysis or dilution buffer were found to influence significantly the extent of reactivation. The greater yield of reactivation of unfolded protein using the dialysis procedure probably reflects the ability of the enzyme to make the correct structural adjustments between intermediates when the concentration of GdnHCI is lowered gradually. In the case of Thermoplasma acidophilum the recovery of citrate synthase activity was much greater at 20 ·C than at 55 ·C (the optimal temperature for growth of this organism). This has implications for the folding process in vivo under the extreme growth conditions of thermophiles and possibly other extremophiles. The hexameric citrate synthase from Acinetobacter anitratum and the tetradecameric chaperonin, GroEL could not be reactivated following denaturation. Far u.v. circular dichroism measurements on GroEL indicated that the native secondary structure of this protein was regained to a large extent. In vivo a number of the proteins studied (fumarase and citrate synthase from pig hean and yeast NAD+ -dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase)are translocated into mitochondria as precursors in a non-native state prior to processing, folding and assembly. The lack of complete refolding of the proteins studied in this work points to the existence of specialised mechanisms in vivo to promote efficient folding. Chaperone proteins have been implicated in the assistance of protein folding in vivo. Intriguingly. the studies on the inefficient refolding of the chaperonin GroEL support the proposal that this protein may fold in vivo by way of a "self chaperoning" mechanism.