The natively helical chain segment 169-188 of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase is formed in the latest phase of the refolding transition

V. Ratner, E. Kahana, E. Haas

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The refolding transition of Escherichia coli adenylate kinase (AK) was investigated by monitoring the refolding kinetics of a selected 20 residue helical segment in the CORE domain of the protein. Residues 169 and 188 were labeled by 1-acetamido-methyl-pyrene, and by bimane, respectively. The experiment combines double-jump stopped-flow fast mixing initiation of refolding and time-resolved Förster energy transfer spectroscopy for monitoring the conformational transitions (double-kinetics experiment). Two kinetic phases were found in the denaturant-induced unfolding of AK. In the first phase, the fluorescence quantum yields of both probes decreased. The distribution of the distances between them transformed from the native state's narrow distribution with the mean distance corresponding to the distance in the crystal structure, to a distribution compatible with an unordered structure. In the second, slow step of denaturation, neither the fluorescence parameters of the probes nor the distance distribution between them changed. This step appeared to be a transformation of the fast-folding species formed in the first phase, to the slow-folding species. Refolding of the fast-folding species of the denatured state of AK was also a two-phase process. During the first fast phase, within less than 5 ms, the fluorescence emission of both probes increased, but the distance distribution between the labeled sites was unchanged. Only during the second slow refolding step did the intra molecular distance distribution change from the characteristic of the denatured state to the narrow distribution of the native state. This experiment shows that for the case of the CORE domain of AK, the large helical segment of residues 169-188 was not formed in the first compaction step of refolding. The helical conformation of this segment is established only in the second, much slower, refolding phase, simultaneously with the completion of the native structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1145
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Professor M. Rosenbluh, Department of Physics, Bar-Ilan University, for his continuous help and contributions. This work was supported by research and equipment grants from the Israel Science Foundation, NIH grant GM39372, and by the support of the Damadian Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Bar-Ilan University.


  • Adenylate kinase
  • Early folding intermediates
  • FRET
  • Fast kinetics
  • Protein folding


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