Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

C. Robert Matthews, PhD


Protein Folding, Protein Engineering, Proteins


Dissertations, UMMS; Protein Folding; Protein Engineering; Proteins


Early events in folding can determine if a protein is going to fold, misfold, or aggregate. Understanding these deterministic events is paramount for de novo protein engineering, the enhancement of biopharmaceutical stabilities, and understanding neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. However, the physicochemical and structural biases within high energy states of protein biopolymers are poorly understood.

A combined experimental and computational study was conducted on the small β/α-repeat protein CheY to determine the structural basis of its submillisecond misfolding reaction to an off-pathway intermediate. Using permutations, we were able to discriminate between the roles of two proposed mechanisms of folding; a nucleation condensation model, and a hydrophobic collapse model driven by the formation of clusters of isoleucine, leucine, and valine (ILV) residues. We found that by altering the ILV cluster connectivity we could bias the early folding events to either favor on or off-pathway intermediates.

Structural biases were also experimentally observed in the unfolded state of a de novo designed synthetic β/α-repeat protein, Di-III_14. Although thermodynamically and kinetically 2-state, Di-III_14 has a well structured unfolded state that is only observable under native-favoring conditions. This unfolded state appears to retain native-like structure, consisting of a hydrophobic 7 core (69% ILV) stabilized by solvent exposed polar groups and long range electrostatic interactions.

Together, these results suggest that early folding events are largely deterministic in these two systems. Generally, low contact order ILV clusters favor local compaction and, in specific cases, long range electrostatic interactions may have stabilizing effects in higher energy states.



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