The study of the structure, function, folding and conformational transitions of cytochrome c is of great interest because this protein plays an important role in biological electron transport and apoptosis. The different native and non-native conformations have been studied extensively under equilibrium conditions at different pH values, however, kinetic studies are rare because they require technically challenging rapid mixing and spectroscopic monitoring techniques. Here we present the refolding kinetics of acid denatured cytochrome c using the pH jump technique from pH 2 to pH 4.7 in combination with a new ultrafast continuous flow mixing device that allows time resolved measurements to the microsecond time scale. Our results show that the initial refolding of denatured oxidized cytochrome c occurs very rapidly with a time constant τ = 10 μs, and is followed by discrete refolding steps with time constants of 56 and 208 μs. Electron paramagnetic resonance analysis of the different intermediates, obtained by microsecond freeze hyper quenching showed that the first two intermediates are predominantly high spin, and the third intermediate is the low spin species with complete His/Met coordination. The initial rapid phase is characterized by the formation of high spin species distinct from the completely unfolded state. We interpret this as the formation of a five coordinate species with His18 as the axial ligand or six coordinate with water and His18 as the axial ligands.
- Cytochrome c
- Electron paramagnetic resonance
- Microsecond HyperQuench
- Pre steady-state kinetics
- Protein folding