Site-directed mutagenesis has been used to study the effect on the stability of human apomyoglobin (apoMb) of modifying the size, hydrophobicity, and charge of a central residue in the G.B helix-helix packing interface. Some stability measurements have also been made on the corresponding holomyoglobins (heme present). Cys-110, a central helix pairing residue in the G helix, has been changed to Ala, Ser, Asp, and Leu. Stability to low-pH-induced unfolding has been measured for both native apoMb and the compact folding intermediate discovered by Griko et al. [Griko, Y. V., Privalov, P. L., Venyaminov, S. Y., & Kutyshenko, V. P. (1988) J. Mol. Biol. 202, 127-138]. As judged by its circular dichroism spectrum, this intermediate has a substantial helix content (about 35%). Whether or not this inferred helical structure is closely related to the myoglobin structure is not yet known. The mutational evidence shows that integrity of G.B helix pairing is important for the stability of apoMb as well as of myoglobin and that this helix pairing site is very sensitive to both steric and electrostatic disruption. Our results also suggest that G.B helix pairing does not stabilize the compact intermediate; hence, disrupting this site destabilizes the native protein relative to the compact intermediate. Such selective destabilization of the native state relative to equilibrium folding intermediates is not restricted to acid denaturation: urea denaturation of the Leu mutant appears to display at least one stable intermediate, while wild-type and the remaining mutant apoMbs undergo two-state urea unfolding transitions.
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