Journal article Open Access
Agócs, Gergely; Szabó, Bence T; Köhler, Gottfried; Osváth, Szabolcs
Partitioning of polypeptides between protein folding and amyloid formation is of outstanding pathophysiological importance. Using yeast phosphoglycerate kinase as model, here we identify the features of the energy landscape that decide the fate of the protein: folding or amyloidogenesis. Structure formation was initiated from the acid-unfolded state, and monitored by fluorescence from 10 ms to 20 days. Solvent conditions were gradually shifted between folding and amyloidogenesis, and the properties of the energy landscape governing structure formation were reconstructed. A gradual transition of the energy landscape between folding and amyloid formation was observed. In the early steps of both folding and misfolding, the protein searches through a hierarchically structured energy landscape to form a molten globule in a few seconds. Depending on the conditions, this intermediate either folds to the native state in a few minutes, or forms amyloid fibers in several days. As conditions are changed from folding to misfolding, the barrier separating the molten globule and native states increases, although the barrier to the amyloid does not change. In the meantime, the native state also becomes more unstable and the amyloid more stable. We conclude that the lower region of the energy landscape determines the final protein structure.