Folding of elongated proteins: Conventional or anomalous?

Tzachi Hagai, Yaakov Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The complexity of the mechanisms by which proteins fold has been shown by many studies to be governed by their native-state topologies. This was manifested in the ability of the native topology-based model to capture folding mechanisms and the success of folding rate predictions based on various topological measures, such as the contact order. However, while the finer details of topological complexity have been thoroughly examined and related to folding kinetics, simpler characteristics of the protein, such as its overall shape, have been largely disregarded. In this study, we investigated the folding of proteins with an unusual elongated geometry that differs substantially from the common globular structure. To study the effect of the elongation degree on the folding kinetics, we used repeat proteins, which become more elongated as they include more repeating units. Some of these have apparently anomalous experimental folding kinetics, with rates that are often less than expected on the basis of rates for globular proteins possessing similar topological complexity. Using experimental folding rates and a larger set of rates obtained from simulations, we have shown that as the protein becomes increasingly elongated, its folding kinetics becomes slower and deviates more from the rate expected on the basis of topology measures fitted for globular proteins. The observed slow kinetics is a result of a more complex pathway in which stable intermediates composed of several consecutive repeats can appear. We thus propose a novel measure, an elongation-sensitive contact order, that takes into account both the extent of elongation and the topological complexity of the protein. This new measure resolves the apparent discrimination between the folding of globular and elongated repeat proteins. Our study extends the current capabilities of folding-rate predictions by unifying the kinetics of repeat and globular proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14253-14262
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number43
StatePublished - 29 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


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