Kinetic intermediates in protein folding are short-lived and therefore difficult to detect and to characterize. In the folding of polypeptide chains with incorrect isomers of Xaa-Pro peptide bonds the final rate-limiting transition to the native state is slow, since it is coupled to prolyl isomerization. Incorrect prolyl isomers thus act as effective traps for folding intermediates and allow their properties to be studied more easily. We employed this strategy to investigate the mechanism of slow folding of ribonuclease T1. In our experiments we use a mutant form of this protein with a single cis peptide bond at proline 39. During refolding, protein chains with an incorrect trans proline 39 can rapidly form extensive secondary structure. The CD signal in the amide region is regained within the dead-time of stopped-flow mixing (15 ms), indicating a fast formation of the single alpha-helix of ribonuclease T1. This step is correlated with partial formation of a hydrophobic core, because the fluorescence emission maximum of tryptophan 59 is shifted from 349 nm to 325 nm within less than a second. After about 20 s of refolding an intermediate is present that shows about 40% enzymatic activity compared to the completely refolded protein., In addition, the solvent accessibility of tryptophan 59 is drastically-reduced in this intermediate and comparable to that of the native state as determined by acrylamide quenching of the tryptophan fluorescence. Activity and quenching measurements have long dead-times and therefore we do not know whether enzymatic activity and solvent accessibility also change in the time range of milliseconds. At this stage of folding at least part of the beta-sheet structure is already present, since it hosts the active site of the enzyme. The trans to cis isomerization of the tyrosine 38-proline 39 peptide bond in the intermediate and consequently the formation of native protein is very slow (tau = 6,500 s at pH 5.0 and 10-degrees-C). It is accompanied by an additional increase in tryptophan fluorescence, by the development of the fine structure of the tryptophan emission spectrum, and by the regain of the full enzymatic activity. This indicates that the packing of the hydrophobic core, which involves both tryptophan 59 and proline 39, is optimized in this step. Apparently, refolding polypeptide chains with an incorrect prolyl isomer can very rapidly form partially folded intermediates with native-like properties.