Document Type


Publication Date



The folding pathway of the histone H2A–H2B heterodimer minimally includes an on-pathway, dimeric, burst-phase intermediate, I2. The partially folded H2A and H2B monomers populated at equilibrium were characterized as potential monomeric kinetic intermediates. Folding kinetics were compared for initiation from isolated, folded monomers and the heterodimer unfolded in 4 M urea. The observed rates were virtually identical above 0.4Murea, exhibiting a log-linear relationship on the final denaturant concentration. Below ∼0.4 M urea (concentrations inaccessible from the 4-M urea unfolded state), a rollover in the rates was observed; this suggests that a component of the I2 ensemble contains non-native structure that rearranges/isomerizes to a more native-like species. The contribution of helix propensity to the stability of the I2 ensemble was assessed with a set of H2A–H2B mutants containing Ala and Gly replacements at nine sites, focusing mainly on the long, central α2 helix. Equilibrium and kinetic folding/unfolding data were collected to determine the effects of the mutations on the stability of I2 and the transition state between I2 and N2. This limited mutational study indicated that residues in the α2 helices of H2A and H2B as well as α1 of H2B and both the C-terminus of α3 and the short αC helix of H2A contribute to the stability of the I2 burst-phase species. Interestingly, at least eight of the nine targeted residues stabilize I2 by interactions that are non-native to some extent. Given that destabilizing I2 and these non-native interactions does not accelerate folding, it is concluded that the native and non-native structures present in the I2 ensemble enable efficient folding of H2A–H2B.


Originally published in Journal of Molecular Biology, Volume 401, Issue 3, 20 August 2010, Pages 518-531.