Carboxypeptidase Y pulses, applied after various times of refolding, were employed to probe the accessibility of the C-terminus of RNAase A during the refolding process. The increase in resistance against proteolytic cleavage was measured by determination of the amount of liberated C-terminal amino acids and by activity assays. The results indicate that the C-terminus of RNAase becomes inaccessible early in the course of refolding, if folding is carried out at low temperatures under conditions that effectively stabilize the native state. At higher temperatures (25 degrees C) or under conditions of marginal stability, intermediates are not populated and protection against proteolytic cleavage is not detectable before the formation of the native state. The method described may be used to monitor the accessibility of the C-terminus of various proteins during refolding. However, intermediates on the folding pathway can only be observed if the native state is stable against carboxypeptidase attack.

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