Studies of protein folding by NMR spectroscopy
This thesis describes an investigation of the folding and stability of a series of derivatives of the proteins lysozyme and α-lactalbumin which lack one or more of their four native disulphide bridges. Removal of the disulphide bridge which links the N- and C-termini from hen lysozyme results in a three-disulphide derivative (CM6,127-lysozyme). This has a profound effect on its stability against thermal denaturation, the Tm for unfolding being reduced by 25°C at pH 3.8. Calorimetric measurements performed on this three-disulphide derivative indicate that this reduction in stability may be attributed entirely to an increase in the entropy difference between the native and denatured states. Kinetic refolding studies of CM6,127-lysozyme using stopped flow optical methods and hydrogen exchange pulse labelling in conjunction with NMR and electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) suggest that this reduced stability manifests itself primarily in the α-domain of the protein. A transient intermediate populated during refolding of the unmodified protein can no longer be detected during folding of the derivative resulting in highly cooperative folding under the conditions investigated. The structure and stability of a three- and two-disulphide derivative of the homologous protein, α-lactalbumin have been investigated by NMR spectroscopy. The three-disulphide species, like its lysozyme counterpart, can adopt native structure but this is much more unstable than the intact protein. Removal of a second disulphide bridge, however, destabilises α-lactalbumin to the extent that the native state is no longer formed. Instead, in the presence of Ca2+ and high concentrations of salt, a partially structured state is induced which has some elements of tertiary structure present. Novel techniques of ESI-MS have been developed to study protein folding and stability using hydrogen exchange techniques. Applications to the investigation of cooperativity in protein folding, stability in native, partially folded and unfolded states, and the interactions of a partially folded protein with the chaperone GroEL are described.