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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visualizing chaperone-assisted protein folding

  • Author(s): Horowitz, S
  • Salmon, L
  • Koldewey, P
  • Ahlstrom, LS
  • Martin, R
  • Quan, S
  • Afonine, PV
  • Van Den Bedem, H
  • Wang, L
  • Xu, Q
  • Trievel, RC
  • Brooks, CL
  • Bardwell, JCA
  • et al.

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© 2016 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved. Challenges in determining the structures of heterogeneous and dynamic protein complexes have greatly hampered past efforts to obtain a mechanistic understanding of many important biological processes. One such process is chaperone-assisted protein folding. Obtaining structural ensembles of chaperone-substrate complexes would ultimately reveal how chaperones help proteins fold into their native state. To address this problem, we devised a new structural biology approach based on X-ray crystallography, termed residual electron and anomalous density (READ). READ enabled us to visualize even sparsely populated conformations of the substrate protein immunity protein 7 (Im7) in complex with the Escherichia coli chaperone Spy, and to capture a series of snapshots depicting the various folding states of Im7 bound to Spy. The ensemble shows that Spy-associated Im7 samples conformations ranging from unfolded to partially folded to native-like states and reveals how a substrate can explore its folding landscape while being bound to a chaperone.

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