Abstract 0270


Li, L., Wetzel, S., Plückthun, A., and Fernandez, J. M. (2006). Stepwise unfolding of ankyrin repeats in a single protein revealed by atomic force microscopy. Biophys. J. 90, L30-32.


Using single-molecule atomic force microscopy, we find that a protein consisting of six identical ankyrin repeat units flanked by N- and C-terminal modules (N6C) unfolds in a stepwise, unit-by-unit fashion under a mechanical force. Stretching a N6C molecule results in a sawtooth pattern fingerprint, with as many as six peaks separated by approximately 10 nm and an average unfolding force of 50 +/- 20 pN. Our results demonstrate that a stretching force can unfold multiple repeat units individually in a single protein molecule, despite extensive hydrophobic interactions between adjacent units.

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