Intermediates in the Inactivation and Unfolding of Dimeric Arginine Kinase Induced by GdnHCl

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Equilibrium studies of guanidine hydrochloride (GdnHCl)–induced unfolding of dimeric arginine kinase (AK) from sea cucumber have been performed by monitoring by enzyme activity, intrinsic protein fluorescence, circular dichroism (CD), 1-anilinonaphthalene-8sulfonate (ANS) binding, size-exclusion chromatography and glutaraldehyde cross-linking. The unfolding is a multiphasic process involving at least two dimeric intermediates. The first intermediate, I1, which exists at 0–0.4 M GdnHCl, is a compact inactive dimer lacking partial global structure, while the second dimeric intermediate, I2, formed at 0.5–2.0 M GdnHCl, possesses characteristics similar to the globular folding intermediates described in the literature. The whole unfolding process can be described as follows: (1) inactivation and the appearance of the dimeric intermediate I1; (2) sudden unwinding of I1 to another dimeric intermediate, I2; (3) dissociation of dimeric intermediate I2 to monomers U. The refolding processes initiated by rapid dilution in renaturation buffers indicate that denaturation at low GdnHCl concentrations (below 0.4 M GdnHCl) is reversible and that there seems to be an energy barrier between the two intermediates (0.4–0.5 M GdnHCl), which makes it difficult for AK denatured at high GdnHCl concentrations (above 0.5 M) to reconstitute and regain its catalytic activity completely.

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