How chaperone interactions affect protein folding pathways is a central problem in biology. With the use of optical tweezers and all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, we studied the effect of chaperone SecB on the folding and unfolding pathways of maltose binding protein (MBP) at the single-molecule level. In the absence of SecB, we find that the MBP polypeptide first collapses into a molten globulelike compacted state and then folds into a stable core structure onto which several {alpha} helices are finally wrapped. Interactions with SecB completely prevent stable tertiary contacts in the core structure but have no detectable effect on the folding of the external {alpha} helices. It appears that SecB only binds to the extended or molten globulelike structure and retains MBP in this latter state. Thus during MBP translocation, no energy is required to disrupt stable tertiary interactions.

Bechtluft, P., van Leeuwen, R. G. H., Tyreman, M., Tomkiewicz, D., Nouwen, N., Tepper, H. L., … Tans, S. (2007). Direct observation of chaperone-induced changes in a protein folding pathway. Science, 318, 1458–1461. doi:10.1126/science.1144972