Contrasting the Individual Reactive Pathways in Protein Unfolding and Disulfide Bond Reduction Observed within a Single Protein
Journal of the American Chemical Society
Identifying the dynamics of individual molecules along their reactive pathways remains a major goal of modern chemistry. For simple chemical reactions, the transition state position is thought to be highly localized. Conversely, in the case of more complex reactions involving proteins, the potential energy surfaces become rougher, resulting in heterogeneous reaction pathways with multiple transition state structures. Force-clamp spectroscopy experimentally probes the individual reaction pathways sampled by a single protein under the effect of a constant stretching force. Herein, we examine the distribution of conformations that populate the transition state of two different reactions; the unfolding of a single protein and the reduction of a single disulfide bond, both occurring within the same single protein. By applying the recently developed static disorder theory, we quantify the variance of the barrier heights, σ2, governing each distinct reaction. We demonstrate that the unfolding of the I27 protein follows a nonexponential kinetics, consistent with a high value of σ2 18 (pN nm)2. Interestingly, shortening of the protein upon introduction of a rigid disulfide bond significantly modulates the disorder degree, spanning from σ2 8 to 21 (pN nm)2. These results are in sharp contrast with the exponential distribution of times measured for an SN2 chemical reaction, implying the absence of static disorder σ2 0 (pN nm)2. Our results demonstrate the high sensitivity of the force-clamp technique to capture the signatures of disorder in the individual pathways that define two distinct force-induced reactions, occurring within the core of a single protein.