An approach is described to monitor directly at the level of individual residues the formation of structure during protein folding. A two-dimensional heteronuclear nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrum was recorded after the rapid initiation of the refolding of a protein labeled with nitrogen-15. The intensities and line shapes of the cross peaks in the spectrum reflected the kinetic time course of the folding events that occurred during the spectral accumulation. The method was used to demonstrate the cooperative nature of the acquisition of the native main chain fold of apo bovine alpha-lactalbumin. The general approach, however, should be applicable to the investigation of a wide range of chemical reactions.
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