Denatured state thermodynamics: Residual structure, chain stiffness and scaling factors

Barbara N. Hammack, Christopher R. Smith, Bruce E. Bowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


A set of nine variants of yeast iso-1-cytochrome c with zero or one surface histidine have been engineered such that the N-terminal amino group is acetylated in vivo. N-terminal acetylation has been confirmed by mass spectral analysis of intact and proteolytically digested protein. The histidine-heme loop-forming equilibrium, under denaturing conditions (3 M guanidine hydrochloride), has been measured by pH titration providing an observed pKa, pKa(obs), for each variant. N-terminal acetylation prevents the N-terminal amino group-heme binding equilibrium from interfering with measurements of histidine-heme affinity. Significant deviation is observed from the linear dependence of pKa(obs) on the log of the number of monomers in the loop formed, expected for a random coil denatured state. The maximum histidine-heme affinity occurs for a loop size of 37 monomers. For loop sizes of 37-83 monomers, histidine-heme pKa(obs) values are consistent with a scaling factor of -4.2 ± 0.3. This value is much larger than the scaling factor of -1.5 for a freely jointed random coil, which is commonly used to represent the conformational properties of protein denatured states. For loop sizes of nine to 22 monomers, chain stiffness is likely responsible for the decreases in histidine-heme affinity relative to a loop size of 37. The results are discussed in terms of residual structure and sequence composition effects on the conformational properties of the denatured states of proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1091-1104
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 31 2001


  • Cytochrome c
  • Denatured state
  • Guanidine hydrochloride
  • Protein folding
  • Random coil


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