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Current opinion in structural biology

Packing in molten globules and native states.


PMID 23270864

Abstract

Close packing of hydrophobic residues in the protein interior is an important determinant of protein stability. Cavities introduced by large to small substitutions are known to destabilize proteins. Conversely, native states of proteins and protein fragments can be stabilized by filling in existing cavities. Molten globules (MGs) were initially used to describe a state of protein which has well-defined secondary structure but little or no tertiary packing. Subsequent studies have shown that MGs do have some degree of native-like topology and specific packing. Wet molten globules (WMGs) with hydrated cores and considerably decreased packing relative to the native state have been studied extensively. Recently there has been renewed interest in identification and characterization of dry molten globules (DMGs). These are slightly expanded forms of the native state which show increased conformational flexibility, native-like main-chain hydrogen bonding and dry interiors. The generality of occurrence of DMGs during protein unfolding and the extent and nature of packing in DMGs remain to be elucidated. Packing interactions in native proteins and MGs can be probed through mutations. Next generation sequencing technologies make it possible to determine relative populations of mutants in a large pool. When this is coupled to phenotypic screens or cell-surface display, it becomes possible to rapidly examine large panels of single-site or multi-site mutants. From such studies, residue specific contributions to protein stability and function can be estimated in a highly parallelized fashion. This complements conventional biophysical methods for characterization of packing in native states and molten globules.

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