Engineering stabilising β-sheet interactions into a conformationally flexible region of the folding transition state of ubiquitin

Roger Bofill, Mark S. Searle

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Protein engineering studies suggest that the transition state for the folding of ubiquitin is highly polarised towards the N-terminal part of the sequence and involves a nucleus of residues within the β-hairpin (residues 1-17) and main α-helix (residues 23-34). In contrast, the observation of small φ-values for residues in the C-terminal portion of the sequence (residues 35-76), coupled with a folding topology that results in a much higher contact order, suggests that fast folding of ubiquitin is dependent upon configurational flexibility in the C-terminal part of the polypeptide chain to ensure passage down a relatively smooth folding funnel to the native state. We show that the introduction of a small mini-hairpin motif as an extension of the native 43-50 hairpin stabilises local interactions in the C-terminal part of the sequence, resulting largely in a deceleration of the unfolding kinetics without perturbing the apparent two-state folding mechanism. However, a single-point Leu→Phe substitution within the engineered hairpin sequence leads to the premature collapse of the denatured ensemble through the stabilisation of non-native interactions and the population of a compact intermediate. Non-linear effects in the kinetic data at low concentrations of denaturant suggest that the collapsed state, which is further stabilised in the presence of cosmotropic salts, may subsequently fold directly to the native state through a "triangular" reaction scheme involving internal rearrangement rather than unfolding and refolding. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-384
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2005


  • β-hairpin stabilisation
  • Non-native interactions
  • Protein engineering
  • Protein folding
  • Ubiquitin


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