Bovine beta-lactoglobulin (beta-LG) is a widely studied protein belonging to the lipocalin family, whose structural characterisation has been reported by X-ray crystallography and NMR studies at physiological and acidic pH, respectively. Bovine beta-LG consists of nine antiparallel beta-sheets and a terminal alpha-helix segment. The beta-sheets form a calyx structure with a hydrophobic buried cluster conferring stability to the protein while a hydrophobic surface patch provides stabilising interactions between the barrel and the flanking terminal helix. Here, the stability and the folding properties of bovine beta-LG in the presence of a chemical denaturant is probed. The analysis of the NMR spectra recorded in aqueous solution with increasing amounts of urea revealed that the intensities of the backbone cross-peaks decrease upon increasing urea concentration, while their secondary shifts do not change significantly on going from 0 to 5 M urea, thus suggesting the presence of slow exchange between native and unfolded protein. Hydrogen exchange measurements at different urea concentrations were performed in order to evaluate the exchange rates of individual backbone amide protons. The opening reactions that determine protein exchange can be computed for the most slowly exchanging hydrogen atoms, and the measured exchange rates and the corresponding free energies can be expressed in terms of the equilibrium energetic for the global transition and the local fluctuations. Most of the residues converge to define a common isotherm identifying a unique cooperative folding unit, encompassing all the strands, except strand betaI, and the terminal region of the helix. The amides that do not join the same global unfolding isotherm are characterised by low DeltaGH20op and especially by low m values, indicating that they are already substantially exposed in the native state. A two-state unfolding model N <==> U is therefore proposed for this rather big protein, in agreement with CD data. Renaturation studies show that the unfolding mechanism is reversible up to 6 M urea and suggest a similar unfolding and refolding pathway. Present results are discussed in light of the hypothesis of an alpha-->beta transition proposed for bovine beta-LG refolding.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.