Journal article

A 'molten-globule' membrane-insertion intermediate of the pore-forming domain of colicin A

The 'molten' globular conformation of a protein is compact with a native secondary structure but a poorly defined tertiary structure. Molten globular states are intermediates in protein folding and unfolding and they may be involved in the translocation or insertion of proteins into membranes. Here we investigate the membrane insertion of the pore-forming domain of colicin A, a bacteriocin that depolarizes the cytoplasmic membrane of sensitive cells. We find that this pore- forming domain, the insertion of which depends on pH, undergoes a native to molten globule transition at acidic pH. The variation of the kinetic constant of membrane insertion of the protein into negatively charged lipid vesicles as a function of the interfacial pH correlates with the appearance of the acidic molten globular state, indicating that this state could be an intermediate formed during the insertion of colicin A into membranes.


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