Starting from a standard unfolded state (3.0 M guanidine hydrochloride, pH 7.2), the kinetics of refolding of iso-2-cytochrome c have been investigated as a function of final pH between pH 3 and pH 10. Absorbance in the ultraviolet and visible spectral regions and tryptophan fluorescence are used to monitor folding. Over most of the pH range, fast and slow folding phases are detected by both fluorescence and absorbance probes. Near neutral pH, the rate of fast folding appears to be the same when monitored by absorbance and fluorescence probes. At higher and lower pH, there are two fast folding reactions, with absorbance-detected fast folding occurring in a slightly faster time range than fluorescence-detected fast folding. The rates of both fast folding reactions pass through broad minima near neutral pH, indicating involvement of ionizable groups in rate-limiting steps. The rates of slow folding also depend on the final pH. At acid pH, there appears to be a single slow folding phase for both fluorescence and absorbance probes. At neutral pH, the absorbance-detected and fluorescence-detected slow folding phases separate into distinct kinetic processes which differ in rate and relative amplitude. At high pH, absorbance-detected slow folding is no longer observed, while fluorescence-detected slow folding is decreased in amplitude. in contrast, the equilibrium and kinetic properties of proline imide bond isomerization, believed to be involved in the slow folding reactions, are largely independent of pH. The results suggest that the pH dependence of slow folding involves coupling of pH-sensitive structure to proline imide bond isomerization. The dependence of kinetic properties on pH suggests that one factor governing the rates of both fast and slow folding reactions involves ionizable groups which alter the stability of folding intermediates. Differences in the pH sensitivity of key intermediates may influence relative rates and thus the selection of pathways in folding, leading to appearance and disappearance of kinetic phases.
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