The human ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase, UCH-L1, is an abundant neuronal deubiquitinase that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. It contains a complex Gordian knot topology formed by the polypeptide chain alone. Using a combination of fluorescence-based kinetic measurements, we show that UCH-L1 has two distinct kinetic folding intermediates that are transiently populated on parallel pathways between the denatured and native states. NMR hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) experiments indicate the presence of partially unfolded forms (PUFs) of UCH-L1 under native conditions. HDX measurements as a function of urea concentration were used to establish the structure of the PUFs and pulse-labelled HDX NMR was used to show that the PUFs and the folding intermediates are likely the same species. In both cases, a similar stable core encompassing most of the central β-sheet is highly structured and α-helix 3, which is partially formed, packs against it. In contrast to the stable β-sheet core, the peripheral α-helices display significant local fluctuations leading to rapid exchange. The results also suggest that the main difference between the two kinetic intermediates is structure and packing of α-helices 3 and 7 and the degree of structure in β-strand 5. Together, the fluorescence and NMR results establish that UCH-L1 neither folds through a continuum of pathways nor by a single discrete pathway. Its folding is complex, the β-sheet core forms early and is present in both intermediate states, and the rate-limiting step which is likely to involve the threading of the chain to form the 52-knot occurs late on the folding pathway.
Journal of Molecular Biology – Elsevier
Published: Jun 5, 2016
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