A pathway for conformational diversity in proteins mediated by intramolecular chaperones

Ujwal Shinde, Xuan Fu, Masayori Inouye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Conformational diversity within unique amino acid sequences is observed in diseases like scrapie and Alzheimer's disease. The molecular basis of such diversity is unknown. Similar phenomena occur in subtilisin, a serine protease homologous with eukaryotic pro-hormone convertases. The subtilisin propeptide functions as an intramolecular chaperone (IMC) that imparts steric information during folding but is not required for enzymatic activity. Point mutations within IMCs alter folding, resulting in structural conformers that specifically interact with their cognate IMCs in a process termed 'protein memory.' Here, we show a mechanism that mediates conformational diversity in subtilisin. During maturation, while the IMC is autocleaved and subsequently degraded by the active site of subtilisin, enzymatic properties of this site differ significantly before and after cleavage. Although subtilisin folded by Ile-48 → Thr IMC (IMC(I-48T)) acquires an 'altered' enzymatically active conformation (Sub(I-48T)) significantly different from wild-type subtilisin (Sub(WT)), both precursors undergo autocleavage at similar rates. IMC cleavage initiates conformational changes during which the IMC continues its chaperoning function subsequent to its cleavage from subtilisin. Structural imprinting resulting in conformational diversity originates during this reorganization stage and is a late folding event catalyzed by autocleavage of the IMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15615-15621
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 28 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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