, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 211-219

Stopped-flow dynamic light scattering as a method to monitor compaction during protein folding

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Abstract

Kinetic dynamic light scattering is a useful tool to follow compaction during protein folding. In contrast to measurements of the formation of secondary structure and side chain ordering, kinetic measurements of compactness are not well established up to now. This work describes the adaptation of a stopped-flow system (SFM-3) to a dynamic light scattering apparatus, which allows one to monitor the compaction of protein molecules by measuring the hydrodynamic Stokes radius R. The feasibility of such investigations was demonstrated by measuring R and the integrated scattered intensity I during refolding of ribonuclease A and phosphoglycerate kinase from yeast. Refolding was initiated by rapid mixing of protein solutions containing high concentrations of guanidine hydrochloride with buffer. Between 20 and 50 mixing events were performed in these experiments. Measuring both R and I in one and the same experiment is important to distinguish between true folding of individual molecules and cases where folding is accompanied by the appearance of transient oligomers or associated misfolded structures. On refolding of ribonuclease A (0.6 M GuHCl, 25 °C), after a fast phase the Stokes radius decreased from 2.26 nm to 1.95 nm with a time constant of 27 s without detectable aggregates. By contrast, transient and stable oligomers have been observed during the more complex folding of phosphoglycerate kinase. In general, the time-resolution of the method is of the order of 1 s. It can be extended to the subsecond time-range if the number of shots is not limited by the amount of protein available.

Received: 8 August 1996 / Accepted: 18 October 1996