The acid-induced unfolding of human platelet profilin (HPP) can be minimally modeled as a three-state process. Equilibrium unfolding studies have been performed on human platelet profilin1 (HPP) and monitored by far-UV circular dichroism, tryptophan fluorescence, ANS binding, and NMR spectroscopy. Far-UV CD measurements obtained by acid titration demonstrate that HPP unfolds via a three-state mechanism (N → I → U), with a highly populated intermediate between pH 4 and 5. Approximately 80% of native helical secondary structural content remains at pH 4, as indicated by monitoring the CD signal at 222 nm. The stability (ΔGH2O) of the native conformation at pH 7.0 (obtained by monitoring the change in tryptophan signal as a function of urea concentration) is 5.56 ± 0.51 kcal mol-1; however, the ΔGH2O for the intermediate species at pH 4 is 2.01 ± 0.47 kcal mol-1. The calculated m-values for the pH 7.0 and pH 4.0 species were 1.64 ± 0.15 and 1.34 ± 0.17 kcal mol-1 M-1, respectively, which is an indication that the native and intermediate species are similarly compact. Additionally, translational diffusion measurements obtained by NMR spectroscopy and ANS binding studies are consistent with a globular and compact conformation at both pH 7.0 and 4.0. The pKa values for the two histidine (His) residues located on helix 4 of HPP were determined to be 5.6 and 5.7 pH units. These pKa values coincide with the midpoint of the far-UV CD acid titration curve and suggest that the protonation of one or both His residues may play a role in the formation of the unfolding intermediate. Stable intermediate species populate the 2D 1H-15N HSQC NMR spectra between pH 4 and 5. A number of backbone and side-chain resonances show significant perturbations relative to the native spectrum; however, considerable nativelike tertiary contacts remain. Interestingly, the residues on HPP that are significantly altered at low pH coincide with segments of the G-actin binding surface and poly-L-proline binding interface. The earlier reports that a decrease in pH below 6.0 induces structural alterations in profilin, favoring dissociation of the profilin-actin complex, corresponds with the structural alterations observed in the partially unfolded species. Our findings suggest that a novel mechanism for pH induced disruption of the profilin-G-actin complex involve a nativelike unfolding intermediate of profilin.
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