Indexed on: 18 Mar '08Published on: 18 Mar '08Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry
The ligand binding module five (LA5) of the low density lipoprotein receptor is a small, single-domain protein of 40 residues and three disulfide bonds with a calcium binding motif that is essential for its structure and function. Several mutations in LA5 have been reported to cause familial hypercholesterolemia by impairing a proper folding of the module. The current study reports the oxidative folding and reductive unfolding pathways of wild type and mutant LA5 modules through kinetic and structural analysis of the trapped intermediates. Wild type LA5 folding involves an initial phase of nonspecific packing where the sequential oxidation of its cysteines gives rise to complex equilibrated populations of intermediates. In the presence of calcium, the attainment of a coordination-competent conformation becomes the rate-limiting step of folding while binding of the ion funnels both thermodynamically and kinetically the folding reaction toward the native state. In the absence of calcium, a scrambled isomer (termed Xa) constitutes the global free energy minimum of the folding process. Xa and the native form are stable, inter-convertible species whose relative populations at equilibrium appear displaced in disease-linked mutants toward the scrambled form. Because stable scrambled isomers such as Xa avoid the exposition of reactive cysteines in misfolded modules, they might constitute a strategy to prevent wrong interactions with other domains during folding of the receptor. Comparison of the folding pathways of wild type and mutant LA5 provides the molecular basis to understand how LA modules fold into a functional conformation or upon mutation misfold and lead to disease.