Misfolding of Luciferase at the Single-Molecule Level
Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. , Volume 25 - Issue 39 p. 10390- 10393
The folding of complex proteins can be dramatically affected by misfolding transitions. Directly observing misfolding and distinguishing it from aggregation is challenging. Experiments with optical tweezers revealed transitions between the folded states of a single protein in the absence of mechanical tension. Nonfolded chains of the multidomain protein luciferase folded within seconds to different partially folded states, one of which was stable over several minutes and was more resistant to forced unfolding than other partially folded states. Luciferase monomers can thus adopt a stable misfolded state and can do so without interacting with aggregation partners. This result supports the notion that luciferase misfolding is the cause of the low refolding yields and aggregation observed with this protein. This approach could be used to study misfolding transitions in other large proteins, as well as the factors that affect misfolding.