Protein aggregation is one of the most critical processes affecting protein solubility in various contexts—from protein therapeutics formulation to protein diseases. In general, time‐dependent changes in protein solubility are complex kinetically driven processes that often involve a triggering event that consists of a protein unfolding/misfolding followed by the assembling of aggregation‐competent protein species. In this study, we have examined the relation between stability and time‐dependent solubility of the recombinant human antibody light chain, hLC, which was found to form renal tubular casts in the multiple myeloma patient. To analyze the aggregation quantitatively, the hLC stability and protein solubility assays were performed in vitro at elevated temperatures. A differential acceleration of the processes at high temperatures enabled us to dissect observed kinetics of irreversible hLC unfolding and aggregation. We find that for hLC these processes have different molecularity and activation energy barriers. While the irreversible unfolding of hLC is a unimolecular step with a substantial activation energy barrier of 260 kJ/mol, the aggregation is rate‐limited by the bimolecular reaction, which is characterized by a lower activation energy barrier of 40 kJ/mol. By the combination of experimental assays at different temperatures, different protein concentrations and kinetic modeling using ordinary differential equations, we were able to extrapolate time‐dependent protein solubility to temperatures where both unfolding and aggregation processes are strongly kinetically coupled. Our study enables mechanism‐based evaluation and interpretation of different physico‐chemical factors contributing to the hLC unfolding and aggregation and their effect on the formation of extracellular protein deposits.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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