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Kinetic Partitioning Mechanism Governs the Folding of the Third FnIII Domain of Tenascin-C: Evidence at the Single-Molecule Level

TitleKinetic Partitioning Mechanism Governs the Folding of the Third FnIII Domain of Tenascin-C: Evidence at the Single-Molecule Level
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsPeng, Q, Fang, J, Wang, M, Li, H
JournalJOURNAL OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY
Volume412
Pagination698-709
Date PublishedSEP 30
ISSN0022-2836
Abstract

Statistical mechanics and molecular dynamics simulations proposed that the folding of proteins can follow multiple parallel pathways on a rugged energy landscape from unfolded state en route to their folded native states. Kinetic partitioning mechanism is one of the possible mechanisms underlying such complex folding dynamics. Here, we use single-molecule atomic force microscopy technique to directly probe the multiplicity of the folding pathways of the third fibronectin type III domain from the extracellular matrix protein tenascin-C (TNfn3). By stretching individual (TNfn3)(8) molecules, we forced TNfn3 domains to undergo mechanical unfolding and refolding cycles, allowing us to directly observe the folding pathways of TNfn3. We found that, after being mechanically unraveled and then relaxed to zero force, TNfn3 follows multiple parallel pathways to fold into their native states. The majority of Thfn3 fold into the native state in a simple two-state fashion, while a small percentage of TNfn3 were found to be trapped into kinetically stable folding intermediate states with well-defined three-dimensional structures. Furthermore, the folding of TNfn3 was also influenced by its neighboring TNfn3 domains. Complex misfolded states of TNfn3 were observed, possibly due to the formation of domain-swapped dimeric structures. Our studies revealed the ruggedness of the folding energy landscape of TNfn3 and provided direct experimental evidence that the folding dynamics of TNfn3 are governed by the kinetic partitioning mechanism. Our results demonstrated the unique capability of single-molecule AFM to probe the folding dynamics of proteins at the single-molecule level. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

DOI10.1016/j.jmb.2011.07.049