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The purification and characterization of a new type of thermostable chaperonin from the archaebacterium Sulfolobus solfataricus is described. The chaperonin forms a hetero-oligomeric complex of two different, but closely related, subunits, which we have assigned TF55-alpha and TF55-beta. Their N-terminal sequences and amino acid residue compositions are reported. Two-dimensional projections of the chaperonin have been reconstructed from electron microscopy images, showing a 9-fold symmetrical complex, about 17.5 nm in height and 16 nm in diameter, with a central cavity of 4.5 nm. The complex is resistant to denaturing agents at room temperature and only pH values lower than 2 lead to dissociation. The separated subunits do not reassemble spontaneously but require Mg2+ and ATP for complex formation. Both subunits are necessary for formation of the TF55 oligomer. Significant structural changes have been observed after phosphorylation, thus providing evidence for a structural mobility during the chaperonin-assisted folding process of a protein. The phosphorylation reaction is modulated by potassium and magnesium ions. Magnesium seems to have an inhibitory effect, whereas potassium enhances this reaction.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Biol

Publication Date





397 - 407


Amino Acid Sequence, Archaeal Proteins, Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid, Chromatography, Ion Exchange, Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel, Heat-Shock Proteins, Microscopy, Electron, Molecular Chaperones, Molecular Sequence Data, Phosphorylation, Sulfolobus