Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The ribosome destabilizes native and non-native structures in a nascent multidomain protein

Kaixian Liu, Joseph E. Rehfus, Elliot Mattson, Christian M. Kaiser

Correct folding is a prerequisite for the biological activity of most proteins. Folding has largely been studied using in vitro refolding assays with isolated small, robustly folding proteins. A substantial fraction of all cellular proteomes is composed of multidomain proteins that are often not amenable to this approach, and their folding remains poorly understood. These large proteins likely begin to fold during their synthesis by the ribosome, a large molecular machine that translates the genetic code. The ribosome affects how folding proceeds, but the underlying mechanisms remain largely obscure. We have utilized optical tweezers to study the folding of elongation factor G, a multidomain protein composed of five domains. We find that interactions among unfolded domains interfere with productive folding in the full-length protein. The N-terminal G-domain constitutes an independently folding unit that, upon in vitro refolding, adopts two similar states that correspond to the natively folded and a non-native, possibly misfolded structure. The ribosome destabilizes both of these states, suggesting a mechanism by which terminal misfolding into highly stable, non-native structures is avoided. The ribosome may thus directly contribute to efficient folding by modulating the folding of nascent multidomain proteins.

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