Protein folding on biosensor tips: folding of maltodextrin glucosidase monitored by its interactions with GroEL

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Protein folding has been extensively studied for the past six decades by employing solution-based methods such as solubility, enzymatic activity, secondary structure analysis, and analytical methods like FRET, NMR, and HD exchange. However, for rapid analysis of the folding process, solution-based approaches are often plagued with aggregation side reactions resulting in poor yields. In this work, we demonstrate that a bio-layer interferometry (BLI) chaperonin detection system can identify superior refolding conditions for denatured proteins. The degree of immobilized protein folding as a function of time can be detected by monitoring the binding of the high-affinity nucleotide-free form of the chaperonin GroEL. GroEL preferentially interacts with proteins that have hydrophobic surfaces exposed in their unfolded or partially folded form, so a decrease in GroEL binding can be correlated with burial of hydrophobic surfaces as folding progresses. The magnitude of GroEL binding to the protein immobilized on bio-layer interferometry biosensor inversely reflects the extent of protein folding and hydrophobic residue burial. We demonstrate conditions where accelerated folding can be observed for the aggregation-prone protein maltodextrin glucosidase (MalZ). Superior immobilized folding conditions identified on the bio-layer interferometry biosensor surface were reproduced on Ni-NTA sepharose bead surfaces and resulted in significant improvement in folding yields of released MalZ (measured by enzymatic activity) compared to bulk refolding conditions in solution.

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