Mutational Analysis Demonstrates that Specific Electrostatic Interactions can Play a Key Role in the Denatured State Ensemble of Proteins Academic Article uri icon


  • The nature of the denatured state ensemble has been controversial for decades owing, in large part, to the difficulty in characterizing the structure and energetics of denatured state interactions. There is increasing evidence for relatively non-specific hydrophobic clustering in the denatured states of some proteins but other types of interactions are much less well characterized. Here, we report the characterization of highly specific electrostatic interactions in the denatured state of a small alpha-beta protein, the N-terminal domain of the ribosomal protein L9 (NTL9). Mutation of Lys12 to Met has been shown to increase the stability of NTL9 significantly through the disruption of denatured state interactions. Here, we describe the analysis of the pH-dependent stability of 13 mutants designed to probe the nature of the Lys12 denatured state interaction. Lys12 is located in a lysine-rich region of the protein but analysis of a set of Lys to Met mutants shows that it plays a unique role in the denatured state. Analysis of mutants of all of the acidic residues in NTL9 shows that Lys12 forms a specific non-native electrostatic interaction with Asp8 in the denatured state ensemble. Thus the distribution of charge-charge interactions in the denatured state ensemble of NTL9 appears to be biased by few key interactions and is very different from that expected in a random coil. We propose that these interactions are not encoded by local sequence effects but rather reflect interactions among residues more distant in sequence. These results demonstrate that electrostatic as well as hydrophobic interactions can play an important role in the denatured state ensemble.

author list (cited authors)

  • Cho, J., & Raleigh, D. P.

citation count

  • 59

complete list of authors

  • Cho, Jae-Hyun||Raleigh, Daniel P

publication date

  • October 2005