Propeptide does not act as an intramolecular chaperone but facilitates protein disulfide isomerase-assisted folding of a conotoxin precursor.

PMID 14744155


Conotoxins comprise a large and diverse group of peptide neurotoxins derived from Conus snail venoms; most contain multiple disulfide bonds. The conotoxin precursors consist of three distinct domains: the N-terminal signal sequence, an intervening propeptide region, and the C-terminal mature conotoxin. Formation of the native disulfide bonds during the oxidative folding of conotoxins is a prerequisite for their proper biological function, but in numerous in vitro folding experiments with mature conotoxins, a lack of specificity in formation of the native Cys-Cys connectivities is observed. The mechanisms that ensure that the native disulfide bonds are formed in venom ducts during biosynthesis remain unknown. To evaluate whether the propeptide could potentially function as an intramolecular chaperone, we studied the oxidative folding of a conotoxin precursor, pro-GI, belonging to the alpha-conotoxin family. Our results indicate that the propeptide sequence did not directly contribute to folding kinetics and thermodynamics. However, we found that the propeptide region of pro-GI played an important role when oxidative folding was catalyzed by protein disulfide isomerase (PDI). The PDI-assisted reaction was more efficient during the early folding in the context of the propeptide sequence (pro-GI), as compared to that of the mature conotoxin (alpha-GI). Taken together, our results suggest for the first time that the propeptide region may play a role in the PDI-catalyzed oxidative folding of conotoxin precursors.