Kinetic measurement of protein folding is limited by the method used to trigger folding. Traditional methods, such as stopped flow, have a long mixing dead time and cannot be used to monitor fast folding processes. Here, we report a compound, 4-(bromomethyl)-6,7-dimethoxycoumarin, that can be used as a "photolabile cage" to study the early stages of protein folding. The folding process of a protein, RD1, including kinetics, enthalpy, and volume change, was studied by the combined use of a phototriggered caging strategy and time-resolved photoacoustic calorimetry. The cage caused unfolding of the photolabile protein, and then a pulse UV laser (~10 -9 s) was used to break the cage, leaving the protein free to refold and allowing the resolving of two folding events on a nanosecond time scale. This strategy is especially good for monitoring fast folding proteins that cannot be studied by traditional methods.
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