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Structural characterization of the molten globule of α-lactalbumin by solution X-ray scattering

Protein Science
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Engineering


A compact denatured state is often observed under a mild denaturation condition for various proteins. A typical example is the α-lactalbumin molten globule. Although the molecular compactness and shape are the essential properties for defining the molten globule, there have been ambiguities of these properties for the molten globule of α-lactalbumin. Using solution X-ray scattering, we have examined the structural properties of two types of molten globule of α-lactalbumin, the apo-protein at neutral pH and the acid molten globule. The radius of gyration for the native holo-protein was 15.7 Å, but the two different molten globules both had a radius of gyration of 17.2 Å. The maximum dimension of the molecule was also increased from 50 Å for the native state to 60 Å for the molten globule. These values clearly indicate that the molten globule is not as compact as the native state. The increment in the radius of gyration was less than 10% for the α-lactalbumin molten globule, compared with up to 30% for the molten globules of other globular proteins. Intramolecular disulfide bonds restrict the molecular expansion of the molten globule. The distance distribution function of the α-lactalbumin molten globule is composed of a single peak suggesting a globular shape, which is simply swollen from the native state. The scattering profile in the high Q region of the molten globule indicates the presence of a significant amount of tertiary fold. Based on the structural properties obtained by solution X-ray scattering, general and conceptual structural images for the molten globules of various proteins are described and compared with the individual, detailed structural model obtained by nuclear magnetic resonance.

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