TitleRuggedness in the Free Energy Landscape Dictates Misfolding of the Prion Protein.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMoulick R, Goluguri RReddy, Udgaonkar JB
JournalJ Mol Biol
Date Published2019 Jan 03

Experimental determination of the key features of the free energy landscapes of proteins which dictate their adeptness to fold correctly, or propensity to misfold and aggregate, and which are modulated upon a change from physiological to aggregation-prone conditions, is a difficult challenge. In this study, sub-millisecond kinetic measurements of the folding and unfolding of the mouse prion protein (moPrP), reveal how the free energy landscape becomes more complex upon a shift from physiological (pH 7) to aggregation-prone (pH 4) conditions. Folding and unfolding utilize the same single pathway at pH 7, but at pH 4, folding occurs on a pathway distinct from the unfolding pathway. Moreover, the kinetics of both folding and unfolding at pH 4 depend not only on the final conditions, but also on the conditions under which the processes are initiated. Unfolding can be made to switch to occur on the folding pathway by varying the initial conditions. Folding and unfolding pathways appear to occupy different regions of the free energy landscape, which are separated by large free energy barriers that change with a change in the initial conditions. These barriers direct unfolding of the native protein to proceed via an aggregation-prone intermediate previously identified to initiate the misfolding of moPrP at low pH, thus identifying a plausible mechanism by which the ruggedness of the free energy landscape of a protein may modulate its aggregation propensity.

Alternate JournalJ. Mol. Biol.
PubMed ID30611749