Indexed on: 08 Apr '15Published on: 08 Apr '15Published in: PloS one
While many proteins are recognized to undergo folding via intermediate(s), the heterogeneity of equilibrium folding intermediate(s) along the folding pathway is less understood. In our present study, FTIR spectroscopy, far- and near-UV circular dichroism (CD), ANS and tryptophan fluorescence, near IR absorbance spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering (DLS) were used to study the structural and thermodynamic characteristics of the native (N), denatured (D) and intermediate state (X) of goat cytochorme c (cyt-c) induced by weak salt denaturants (LiBr, LiCl and LiClO4) at pH 6.0 and 25°C. The LiBr-induced denaturation of cyt-c measured by Soret absorption (Δε400) and CD ([θ]409), is a three-step process, N ↔ X ↔ D. It is observed that the X state obtained along the denaturation pathway of cyt-c possesses common structural and thermodynamic characteristics of the molten globule (MG) state. The MG state of cyt-c induced by LiBr is compared for its structural and thermodynamic parameters with those found in other solvent conditions such as LiCl, LiClO4 and acidic pH. Our observations suggest: (1) that the LiBr-induced MG state of cyt-c retains the native Met80-Fe(III) axial bond and Trp59-propionate interactions; (2) that LiBr-induced MG state of cyt-c is more compact retaining the hydrophobic interactions in comparison to the MG states induced by LiCl, LiClO4 and 0.5 M NaCl at pH 2.0; and (3) that there exists heterogeneity of equilibrium intermediates along the unfolding pathway of cyt-c as highly ordered (X1), classical (X2) and disordered (X3), i.e., D ↔ X3 ↔ X2 ↔ X1 ↔ N.