Real-time single-molecule observation of chaperoneassisted protein folding

Publication Name

Science Advances


The ability of heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) molecular chaperones to remodel the conformation of their clients is central to their biological function; however, questions remain regarding the precise molecular mechanisms by which Hsp70 machinery interacts with the client and how this contributes toward efficient protein folding. Here, we used total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) to temporally observe the conformational changes that occur to individual firefly luciferase proteins as they are folded by the bacterial Hsp70 system. We observed multiple cycles of chaperone binding and release to an individual client during refolding and determined that high rates of chaperone cycling improves refolding yield. Furthermore, we demonstrate that DnaJ remodels misfolded proteins via a conformational selection mechanism, whereas DnaK resolves misfolded states via mechanical unfolding. This study illustrates that the temporal observation of chaperone-assisted folding enables the elucidation of key mechanistic details inaccessible using other approaches.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number




Link to publisher version (DOI)