In a study of the re-activation of urea-denatured clostridial glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) the maximum re-activation achieved without any added ligands was about 6%, but with NAD+ and 2-oxoglutarate in combination about 70%. NAD+ alone was also effective but 2-oxoglutarate was not, in striking contrast with the opposite pattern for protection of this enzyme against unfolding in urea [Aghajanian, Martin and Engel (1995) Biochem. J. 311, 905–910]. The extent of re-activation was not increased by raising the incubation temperature to 37 °C and was independent of the time of enzyme denaturation. CD and fluorimetric studies showed that dilution of denatured enzyme into potassium phosphate buffer led to rapid (half-time < 3–5 s) formation of ‘structured’ intermediates with secondary structure similar to that of native enzyme. These intermediate molecules were inactive, behaved as monomers on a size-exclusion column, and were unable to associate to give the native hexameric structure. Addition of NAD+ facilitated isomerization of these ‘structured’ monomers into a form(s) capable of re-activation. A side effect in the refolding process was non-specific aggregation, depending on final enzyme concentration. The hexamer fraction from re-activated samples, however, showed the same specific activity as native enzyme. The portion of the enzyme that is not lost through aggregation thus appears to regain the native structure fully. Detailed time-course studies showed that re-activation follows second-order kinetics, suggesting that formation of a dimer may be the rate-limiting step. The possible mechanism for the unfolding and refolding processes of clostridial GDH and effects of coenzyme and substrate on these are discussed in relation to the known crystal structure.

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