Journal of Physical Chemistry B

Multistage unfolding of an SH3 domain: An initial urea-filled dry molten globule precedes a wet molten globule with non-native structure

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The unfolding of the SH3 domain of the PI3 kinase in aqueous urea has been studied using a synergistic experiment-simulation approach. The experimental observation of a transient wet molten globule intermediate, IU, with an unusual non-native burial of the sole Trp residue, W53, provides the benchmark for the unfolding simulations performed (eight in total, each at least 0.5 μs long). The simulations reveal that the partially unfolded I U ensemble is preceded by an early native-like molten globule intermediate ensemble I*. In the very initial stage of unfolding, dry globule conformations with the protein core filled with urea instead of water are transiently observed within the I* ensemble. Water penetration into the urea-filled core of dry globule conformations is frequently accompanied by very transient burial of W53. Later during gradual unfolding, W53 is seen to again become transiently buried in the IU ensemble for a much longer time. In the structurally heterogeneous IU ensemble, conformational flexibility of the C-terminal β-strands enables W53 burial by the formation of non-native, tertiary contacts with hydrophobic residues, which could serve to protect the protein from aggregation during unfolding. © 2014 American Chemical Society.


07 Apr 2014


Journal of Physical Chemistry B