Dihydrofolate reductases from mouse (MuDHFR) or Escherichia coli (EcDHFR) are shown to refold via several intermediate forms, each of which can bind to the chaperonin GroEL. When stable complexes with GroEL are formed, they consist of late-folding intermediates. In addition, we find that late-folding intermediates that are present in the native enzyme bind to GroEL. For the E. coli and murine proteins, the extent of protein bound increases as the temperature is increased from 8°C to 42°C, at which temperature either protein is completely bound as the last (EcDHFR) or the last two (MuDHFR) folding intermediate(s). Thus for EcDHFR, the binding is transient at low temperature (< 30°C) and stable at high temperature (> 35°C). For MuDHFR, complex formation appears less temperature dependent. In general, the data demonstrate that the overall binding free energy for the interaction of GroEL with native DHFR is the sum of the free energy for the first step in DHFR unfolding, which is unfavorable, and the free energy of binding the non-native conformation, which is favorable. For EcDHFR, this results in an overall binding free energy that is unfavorable below 30°C. Over the temperature range of 8°C to 42°C, GroEL binds MuDHFR more tightly than EcDHFR, due partially to a small free energy difference between two pre-existing non-native conformations of MuDHFR, resulting in binding to more than one folding intermediate.
- Binding free energy
- Protein folding