Direct tracking of protein structural dynamics during folding-unfolding processes is important for understanding the roles of hierarchic structural factors in the formation of functional proteins. Using cytochrome c (cyt c) as a platform, we investigated its structural dynamics during folding processes triggered by local environmental changes (i.e., pH or heme iron center oxidation/spin/ligation states) with time-resolved X-ray solution scattering measurements. Starting from partially unfolded cyt c, a sudden pH drop initiated by light excitation of a photoacid caused a structural contraction in microseconds, followed by active site restructuring and unfolding in milliseconds. In contrast, the reduction of iron in the heme via photoinduced electron transfer did not affect conformational stability at short timescales (<1 ms), despite active site coordination geometry changes. These results demonstrate how different environmental perturbations can change the nature of interaction between the active site and protein conformation, even within the same metalloprotein, which will subsequently affect the folding structural dynamics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry