Pressure-jump-induced kinetics reveals a hydration dependent folding/unfolding mechanism of ribonuclease A

Pressure-jump (p-jump)-induced relaxation kinetics was used to explore the energy landscape of protein folding/unfolding of Y115W, a fluorescent variant of ribonuclease A. Pressure-jumps of 40MPa amplitude (5ms dead-time) were conducted both to higher (unfolding) and to lower (folding) pressure, in the range from 100 to 500MPa, between 30 and 50°C. Significant deviations from the expected symmetrical protein relaxation kinetics were observed. Whereas downward p-jumps resulted always in single exponential kinetics, the kinetics induced by upward p-jumps were biphasic in the low pressure range and monophasic at higher pressures. The relative amplitude of the slow phase decreased as a function of both pressure and temperature. At 50°C, only the fast phase remained. These results can be interpreted within the framework of a two-dimensional energy surface containing a pressure- and temperature-dependent barrier between two unfolded states differing in the isomeric state of the Asn-113–Pro-114 bond. Analysis of the activation volume of the fast kinetic phase revealed a temperature-dependent shift of the unfolding transition state to a larger volume. The observed compensation of this effect by glycerol offers an explanation for its protein stabilizing effect ​
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