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Effects of Aromatic Thiols on Thiol−Disulfide Interchange Reactions That Occur during Protein Folding

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journal contribution
posted on 22.05.2001, 00:00 by Todd V. DeCollo, Watson J. Lees
The folding of disulfide containing proteins from denatured protein to native protein involves numerous thiol−disulfide interchange reactions. Many of these reactions include a redox buffer, which is a mixture of a thiol (RSH) and the corresponding disulfide (RSSR). The relationship between the structure of RSH and its efficacy in folding proteins in vitro has been investigated only to a limited extent. Reported herein are the effects of aliphatic and especially aromatic thiols on reactions that occur during protein folding. Aromatic thiols may be particularly efficacious as their thiol pKa values and reactivities match those of the in vivo catalyst, protein disulfide isomerase (PDI). This investigation correlates the thiol pKa values of aromatic thiols with their reactivities toward small molecule disulfides and the protein insulin. The thiol pKa values of nine para-substituted aromatic thiols were measured; a Hammett plot constructed using σp- values yielded ρ = −1.6 ± 0.1. The reactivities of aromatic and aliphatic thiols with 2-pyridyldithioethanol (2-PDE), a small molecule disulfide, were determined. A plot of reactivity versus pKa of the aromatic thiols had a slope (β) of 0.9. The ability of these thiols to reduce (unfold) the protein insulin correlates strongly with their ability to reduce 2-PDE. Since the reduction of protein disulfides occurs during protein folding to remove mismatched disulfides, aromatic thiols with high pKa values are expected to increase the rate not only of protein unfolding but protein folding as well.