Evidence for Many Unique Solution Structures for Chymotrypsin Inhibitor 2: A Thermodynamic Perspective Derived from vT-ESI-IMS-MS Measurements.
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Chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 (CI-2) is a classic model for two-state cooperative protein folding and is one of the most extensively studied systems. Alan Fersht, a pioneer in the field of structural biology, has studied the wild-type (wt) and over 100 mutant forms of CI-2 with traditional analytical and biochemical techniques. Here, we examine wt CI-2 and three mutant forms (A16G, K11A, L32A) to demonstrate the utility of variable-temperature (vT) electrospray ionization (ESI) paired with ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) and mass spectrometry (MS) to map the free energy folding landscape. As the solution temperature is increased, the abundance of each of the six ESI charge states for wt CI-2 and each mutant is found to vary independently. These results require that at least six unique types of CI-2 solution conformers are present. Ion mobility analysis reveals that within each charge state there are additional conformers having distinct solution temperature profiles. A model of the data at 30 different temperatures for all four systems suggests the presence of 41 unique CI-2 solution conformations. A thermodynamic analysis of this system yields values of Cp as well as G, H, and S for each state at every temperature studied. Detailed energy landscapes derived from these data provide a rare glimpse into Anfinsen's thermodynamic hypothesis and the process of thermal denaturation, normally thought of as a cooperative two-state transition involving the native state and unstructured denatured species. Specifically, as the temperature is varied, the entropies and enthalpies of different conformers undergo dramatic changes in magnitude and relative order to maintain the delicate balance associated with equilibrium.