The E. coli chaperone trigger factor (TF) interacts directly with nascent polypeptide chains as they emerge from the ribosome exit tunnel. Small protein domains can fold under the cradle created by TF, but the co-translational folding of larger proteins is slowed down by its presence. Because of the great experimental challenges in achieving high spatial and time resolution, it is not yet known whether or not TF alters the folding properties of small proteins and if the reduced rate of folding of larger proteins is the result of kinetic or thermodynamic effects. We show, by molecular simulations employing a coarse-grained model of a series of ribosome nascent-chain complexes, that TF does not alter significantly the co-translational folding process of a small protein G domain but delays that of a large β-galactosidase domain as a result of kinetic trapping of its unfolded ensemble. We demonstrate that this trapping occurs through a combination of three distinct mechanisms: a decrease in the rate of structural rearrangements within the nascent chain, an increase in the effective exit tunnel length due to folding outside the cradle, and entanglement of the nascent chain with TF. We present evidence that this TF-induced trapping represents a trade-off between promoting co-translational folding and sterically shielding the nascent chain from aberrant cytosolic interactions that could lead to its aggregation or degradation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry