Avidin molecules in which a fraction of the four binding sites were occupied by biotin did not dissociate completely in 6.4m-guanidinium chloride. Only unoccupied subunits dissociated. The remainder recombined to form the tetrameric avidin–biotin complex. The rate at which unoccupied subunits were unfolded and dissociated was only decreased by one-half in species in which three of the four binding sites were occupied by biotin. These results can be explained by assuming that unfolding of unoccupied subunits followed by dissociation from the tetramer is initiated by penetration of guanidinium ions into the binding site and disorganization of this region of the subunit. When a site is occupied by biotin this pathway is blocked and the subunit does not unfold. Each subunit behaves independently and is not markedly stabilized when neighbouring subunits are occupied.

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