Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry Reveals the Energetics of Intermediates that Guide Polyproline Folding.
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Proline favors trans-configured peptide bonds in native proteins. Although cis/trans configurations vary for non-native and unstructured states, solvent also influences these preferences. Water induces the all-cis right-handed polyproline-I (PPI) helix of polyproline to fold into the all-trans left-handed polyproline-II (PPII) helix. Our recent work has shown that this occurs via a sequential mechanism involving six resolved intermediates [Shi, L., Holliday, A.E., Shi, H., Zhu, F., Ewing, M.A., Russell, D.H., Clemmer, D.E.: Characterizing intermediates along the transition from PPI to PPII using ion mobility-mass spectrometry. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 136, 12702-12711 (2014)]. Here, we use ion mobility-mass spectrometry to make the first detailed thermodynamic measurements of the folding intermediates, which inform us about how and why this transition occurs. It appears that early intermediates are energetically favorable because of the hydration of the peptide backbone, whereas late intermediates are enthalpically unfavorable. However, folding continues, as the entropy of the system increases upon successive formation of each new structure. When PPII is immersed in 1-propanol, the PPIIPPI transition occurs, but this reaction occurs through a very different mechanism. Early on, the PPII population splits onto multiple pathways that eventually converge through a late intermediate that continues on to the folded PPI helix. Nearly every step is endothermic. Folding results from a stepwise increase in the disorder of the system, allowing a wide-scale search for a critical late intermediate. Overall, the data presented here allow us to establish the first experimentally determined energy surface for biopolymer folding as a function of solution environment.